Property Industry Foundation Reception

(Lord Mayor's Reception Room)

Good evening, everyone, and welcome. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and I pay my respects to the Elders, both past and present.

I'm pleased to have you here at Town Hall this evening, since it gives me an opportunity to thank you all for the terrific work of the Property Industry Foundation.

Since its formation in 1996, the Foundation has done a tremendous job of helping young people at risk. These people are our future, and yet the figures of those needing help are quite frightening.

In 2004-05, one in every 70 people in Australia aged 16 to 17 had sought help from a homelessness service. Forty-three per cent of our homeless people are actually young people under 24, and 23 per cent are aged between 12 and 18.

It is shameful to think that on any night - even these bitter wintry nights - there are 36,000 young Australians living rough on the streets of our country - affluent and opportunity.

Too many of them are escapees from dysfunctional or abusive or neglectful families and turn to alcohol and/or drugs, and crime to fund their habits. The downward spiral can be swift and vicious.

Yet the solutions are relatively simple: somewhere safe to sleep, food and a chance to complete their education and find positive goals in life.

Your foundation goes a long way to meeting those needs, mobilising to raise funds, volunteering time, materials and expertise to numerous projects, devising events and special programs to develop work and life skills.

In Sydney we pride ourselves on our cohesive and harmonious society, rightly so, I believe.

If we are to maintain that harmony and cohesion, we need to pay careful attention to the marginalised and less privileged, such as the young people you help.

It's something we all, as individuals, need to take responsibility for and to work together as a community - business, government and individuals to solve issues that affect us all.

The private sector as much as government can provide leadership, inspiration and help to young people. So once again, thank you for your wonderful work and for your great investment in these young people who are our future.

Please enjoy this evening.