NEW BOOKS: Ralph and Kathy Kelly's tragic story, Too Soon Too Late.
NEW BOOKS: Ralph and Kathy Kelly's tragic story, Too Soon Too Late.

Too Soon, Too Late: the Kelly Family story

IT'S extraordinary and honest story of Australian couple Kathy and Ralph Kelly who turned their own family's tragedies into a remarkable crusade that's helping keep all our children safer.

On a winter's night in July 2012 Kathy and Ralph Kelly received a phone call no parent wants to receive.

It was the emergency department of a Sydney hospital telling them that their eldest son Thomas, 18, had been coward punched by a total stranger within two minutes of getting out of a taxi in Kings Cross, on his way to a private 18th birthday party of a friend.

Two days after that first phone call Kathy and Ralph were told that their son had suffered catastrophic head injuries resulting in brain death and advised there was no other option but to switch off his life support.

In the aftermath of their son's death, Kathy and Ralph became the public face of the campaign to end the drunken violence that plagued Sydney's major nightspots.

Along with Premiers Barry O'Farrell and Mike Baird they helped institute the lock out laws that have been a major factor in the reduction of alcohol related deaths and injuries in Darling Harbour, Kings Cross and Sydney's CBD. They were also instrumental in creating Take Kare Safe Spaces for young people in key nightspots. And they were one of the driving forces behind the introduction of tougher sentencing for 'coward-punch' deaths.

But their campaigning created a huge toll on their family.

Online intimidation, death threats and false news about the mishandling of donations came from those with a stake in the clubs and businesses who were the lock out laws financial losers. When Stuart Kelly, Thomas's younger brother, went for his first night at University of Sydney's St Paul's College, Ralph and Kathy believe the bullying he experienced because of the family's profile was so traumatising he left university for good the next day, and wouldn't tell his parents exactly what he'd been made to endure.

Five months later on July 25th, 2016 Stuart took his own life.

This book is the parents story. How they coped with one unimaginable tragedy, only to find that it had sowed the seed for another. How in the face of these terrible losses they have found the spirit and the drive to campaign first for a safer environment for all our children, and for a greater understanding of young people's self-harm and its drivers.

Ralph and Kathy Kelly are the founders of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation. As part of the Foundation the Kelly's created Stay Kind which is a youth suicide awareness campaign which encouraging all Australians to care for each another. The campaign aims to raise awareness of and help prevent youth suicide.

The Kellys were recently interviewed by Andrew Denton for his Channel 7 Interview program. You can watch their incredibly moving and revealing interview here.

Too Soon, Too Late is published Allen & Unwin, Too Soon, Too Late is in bookshops now. RRP $32.99.


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