A Passionate Childrens Rights Advocate Has Left Us
By Harald Breiding-Buss
When the news about Laurie O’Reilly’s death in January filled page after page in newspapers, people started asking who he was and why his death got so much attention.
In the general public he was much better known for his long involvement as a rugby coach than as the Commissioner for Children, but he sure was well known to people in high-up places and the media, where he was an assertive advocate for the rights of children.
I only met Laurie O’Reilly through his involvement with the Fathering the Future forum, in which he was the driving force. No doubt, here was a truly grand person.
A man who was passionate about children, unrelenting about child abuse, and deeply convinced about the importance of the father’s contribution to raising children.
In fact after he learned that he was terminally ill in June last year he dedicated his last months to his “Fathers Who Care:Partners in Parenting” project and used his imminent death to attract media attention to the issue of fatherlessness, He was keen to learn more and more about fathering and in the last few weeks before his death I saw how his vision kept getting broader and turning away from just the narrow focus on “dads who walk out on their families”.
Like no other he enrolled the support of people he felt were important – whether they were simple family men or people in high offices, and through talking to all these people and at the same time keeping both his feet firmly on the ground, he came to be loved by almost everyone he dealt with.
When he died I felt I was robbed of a chance to get to know him better and I regretted that I didn’t take up his invitations to visit him at his home to talk about the Father & Child Trust straight away.
He seemed so healthy, so energetic to me in those last weeks that I just kept on thinking he would keep on being with us for a lot longer.
He achieved much in life, and he certainly died before his time. But most of all, he was simply a great guy, who I shall miss very much.
Next: Caring Fathers