Tonight I am glad to speak about the work of Andy Gourley, who is a constituent and passionate youth worker in the electorate of Mansfield who started the highly successful Red Frogs program for schoolies around the nation. Andy was recently a Queensland finalist in Queensland’s local hero category of the Australian of the Year awards announced last Friday.
His work and achievements are outstanding and he deserves any accolade that we can give him tonight. Andy had a vision to engage youth, and Red Frogs was born in 1997. An accountant by day, Andy would spend his nights as a youth worker. He perceived a need to help young people and he did something about it. So 1997 was the first year that Andy and a small group of helpers went to the Gold Coast during schoolies week to meet up with the thousands of young people there. They began handing out Allen’s red frogs and from there the concept only got bigger. They handed out 80 kilograms that first year in 1997; they now hand out about seven tonnes of red frogs.
The program has grown exponentially, and from that initial idea the program now reaches 15 locations for school leavers’ celebrations annually right around Australia. I can add that when my son went to schoolies he was actually captivated by the Red Frogs team. I am sure that many members have had this experience because the Red Frogs helpers not only come and stand beside kids during that time when they are under some pressure but they help clean up their room, they cook them breakfast and they get them back onto the straight and narrow if they are out wandering at night. The program is quite exceptional during the schoolies period. From that point of view, the Red Frogs team offer members the ability to go with them to school lectures where they prepare kids for schoolies week. I could recommend to each member that they accompany a Red Frogs representative out to their local school to hear what they say and how they get kids ready for schoolies.
We now have 1,500 volunteers who hand out Allen’s red frogs each schoolies season to about 70,000 school leavers. Andy is the sort of bloke who rolls up his sleeves and helps regardless of what needs to be done. He escorts intoxicated teens home late at night, and then early the next morning, as I said, Red Frogs is there cooking them breakfast. The program is no longer confined to schools. In fact, Andy said to me that their university orientation weeks are in fact a bigger challenge for them than schoolies week—in particular, with kids who come from the bush to the city and get caught up in some of the rituals of those O weeks. Andy is a pastor of the Brisbane Citipointe Church located in my electorate of Mansfield. He is always helping youth—that remains his driving passion. I congratulate Andy for his nomination in the Australian of the Year awards and I commend the work of Red Frogs to the House.