At Skyline’s 2020 Annual Reception, our Patron, Justice Lex Lasry AM, QC gave a powerful speech about why Skyline is crucial to the community and lives of so many.
If we’re in a room together tonight, I’m confident I’d be the oldest person in the room that’s apart from Dr Peter Hollingworth. I hope he’s here and listening. My connection and I might say that’s a dangerous category to be in those days, being the oldest in the room. So we stay at home as much as we can.
My connection with skyline goes back at least 15 years ago, because as Heba said, I was at school with John Cheetham. We were friends at school and two of the more troublesome students in the classes that we sat in, in the 1960s. And I’m very proud of my connection with John who sadly died of cancer in March of 2009.
He was on any view, a man with a passion for education. He ran a professional business, which was called the student achievement center. He believed in assisting young people to ensure that they maximise their potential. And obviously that’s what Skyline is all about. At the time that John approached me to participate, I was at the criminal bar in Victoria, and then in 2007 became a judge of the Supreme court.
And of course I see a totally different side of life from the optimistic side of life that we see paraded through Skyline Foundation.
Young people who, with education that peters out at year 9 or 10, part time job, perhaps. Experimentation with drugs, other associates in the minor criminal sphere, then youth justice, then adult prison, then more drugs, then more serious crime.
And it’s a cycle that of course, organisations like Skyline try to break in as many cases as they can, because much of this is about missed opportunity. There are an alarmingly high number of people under the age of 30, with the history of disadvantage and alcohol and substance abuse.
As well as that, I’ve sat in a number of cases involving children, that is children legally under the age of 17 committing serious criminal offenses, where for one reason or another, I’ve been asked to review the role of the children’s court.
And it’s depressing work. When you see children of that age, feeling already alienated and disenfranchised. It’s why my connection with Skyline is so valuable to me because it’s very much the other side of the coin. It’s very much the optimism that people who work in the criminal justice system, like to think about.
The loudest voices in the community, as they say, never criticise an organisation that buys ink in industrial quantities are the tabloid newspapers. We are regularly called upon both by the tabloid newspapers and by governments to impose heavier sentences, particularly on violent offenders. And that’s happened in Victoria. Now, there are 8,000 people in custody.
Almost half of those will return after their initial release. Importantly and relevantly for Skyline. At the moment, there are 861 young people in custody that is young people between the ages of 17 and 24. These are alarming statistics and the stories behind each and every one of those people is a complete justification for Skyline and the enthusiasm of the people who support it. The real solutions, are not about criminal justice and punishment so much as social solutions of the kind that Skyline offers.
Because Skyline has so much to offer the people with talent, with a desire to work with a desire to achieve, and perhaps not quite having the opportunities that other others, others had over the years. The result of Skyline’s work is of course an investment, just not just in the individuals duty, but it’s an investment for the community because of the contribution that these young people make to the community.
Not attracted by criminal activity, but attracted by a life of achievement and contribution to the community, becoming educated and motivated. And we are the beneficiaries. We are the older members of the community. Of course, they’re beneficiaries of their efforts, which means in turn, we are very much the beneficiaries of the efforts of all those people who so selflessly contribute to this organisation.
When you look at the way Skyline has developed since I first became involved 15 years ago. See the size of it. See the spread of it. See the enthusiasm. See the numbers of people who are now willing to contribute and support Skyline. And that’s a very, very proud connection that I have. And I’m very pleased to be a Patron of the organisation.
It’s traditional, I think for me to invite people at this reception to basically empty their pockets in our direction, you should contribute the Skyline whenever you can, in any way you can. Because as you can see from not from what I’m saying, but as you can say, from whats put before you from the Alumni of Skyline, this is an enormously valuable resource.
You should support it. Thank you very much.