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Opening of Barnardos, Diana, Princess of Wales, Children's Family Centre, Warrawong, Friday, 18 February 2000: address on the occasion\n

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Each of us has his or her own memories of Di ana, Princess of Wales.   Memories of her beauty.   Memorial of her style.   Memories of her vulnerability.


For many of us, the memories which are the most important and which will endure are the memories of her concern and work for the most disadvantaged of our society.   Her work for those who even today still suffer from leprosy.   Her work for those affected by HIV-AIDS which did so much to remind the world that the victims of that awful sickness are entitled to our support and our sympathy.   Her work for the sick in hospital, especially children.   Her work for those maimed by landmines:  the victims of man’s inhumanity to man.


How appropriate it is that the Barnardos Family Centre, here in the Illawarra, which we are gathered to officially open is named after her:  The Diana, Princess of Wales, Childrens Family Centre.


Over the past 115 years, Barnardos has built a truly wonderful record of providing help to families troubled by everything from poverty, unemployment, sickness and violence, to children with learning disorders or behavioural or other problems.


One of the distinguishing features of Barnardos’ work is its consistent focus upon keeping children and young people with their families whenever it is possible and in the best interests of the child.   By acting early and assisting parents with problems which might affect their children, Barnardos is often able to help prevent abuse or neglect from escalating to a point where more serious intervention would become necessary or some tragedy occurs.


It goes without saying that an organisation that is concerned to relieve the sorts of pressures which so often cause young people’s lives to degenerate to the point of desperation and hopelessness is one that plays a much needed and most valuable role in our society.   It is clearly preferable to prevent the neglect and abuse of our children, rather than attempt to address those problems only after they have occurred.


Barnardos has maintained a presence in the Illawarra since 1990, providing crisis foster care.   This service will continue and, along with the introduction of Barnardos Adolescent Community Options, will provide shelter and support for children and young people who can no longer live with their families.


However, with the opening of this Centre, and the programmes which will be run from it, Barnardos will be better able to prevent, rather than merely respond to, family crises.   Whether this will be done by a “kid’s friend” who will develop a long-term supportive relationship with a child who may be socially isolated or lacking in positive role models, or by the provision of practical support to re-establish positive family functioning, or by offering after school or vacation care, or through welfare services provided directly to children and their families, Barnardos will assist parents to give their children the care and support they need and deserve.


Already in Australia Barnardos provides permanent solutions for 6,000 children each year, through its 47 integrated welfare programmes, each operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.   Truly, the work of Barnardos is of critical importance, not only to the families and children who are helped, but to our nation as a whole.   This Centre will immeasurably enhance the scope and effectiveness of that work here in the Illawarra.   We are all privileged to be associated with it.


And now, with great pleasure, I declare the Barnardos Diana, Princess of Wales, Childrens Family Centre to be officially opened.