'BEHAVIOUR is language' was the saying Fr Chris Riley left guests with at the City of Joondalup's 2014 Mayoral Prayer Breakfast last week.
The Youth Off The Streets founder and chief executive spoke to more than 150 civic, community and church leaders and local high school students as the keynote speaker for the breakfast themed community activism.
He said the saying, given to him from Native American Rev Shianne Eagleheart was ‘probably the greatest gift’ he had been given.
‘(Rev Eagleheart) was raped by six of her father’s friends, almost killed by police at 14, almost killed by prisoners at 19 then had a child,’ he said.
‘She’d become a heroin addict, involved in crime and was violent.
‘She said ‘when I was young, I’d been hurt but I couldn’t find the words to say how I’d been hurt so I acted it out with crime, with anger, with violence, with drugs, asking people to understand’.
‘Her saying was ‘behaviour is language’. When people are hurting and lashing out, they are trying to tell us something and we’ve got to interpret that and understand that. When you’re in that situation, keep saying to yourself ‘what is this behaviour trying to tell me?’.’
Fr Riley has worked with youth for almost 40 years in a roles including teacher, probation officer, residential carer and principal.
‘My whole mission has been to defend kids,’ he said.
He shared his stories and experiences that demonstrated the importance of community activism and belonging to ensure people feel supported, connected and engaged, which in turn helps to create the right environment for personal growth.
‘We as a nation do not get it that we put in place things that kids react to and we condemn the kids and not the adults that lead out to that. The more we push kids away from us, the harder they come back to us,’ he said.
‘When you look at the trauma of these kids, you can’t blame them but you can heal them. That’s the exciting part for me. No matter how badly people are abused, you can actually fix them.’
Fr Riley also recognised the City of Joondalup’s strong sense of community.
‘It’s fantastic to see your focus on prayer, your focus on helping and your focus on volunteering,’ he said.
Joondalup Mayor Troy Pickard said staying active physically, socially, spiritually and mentally led to an improved quality of life.
‘Being active by way of acts such as volunteering has enormous benefit for the community, provides meaning and purpose in life as well as being good for one’s health and wellbeing,’ he said.
‘The very significant work carried out by volunteers from local organisations and sporting groups provides important services which make Joondalup a better place to live.’
He said the breakfast was a way for people to come together to pray and reflect on the importance of community.
It also raised almost $1300 for YouthCARE, which provides chaplaincy services to schools in the City. The Mater Dei College swing band provided entertainment.
More photos, pages 30-31