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Too Soon, Too Late

Ralph and Kathy Kelly, on the death of their sons, held a mirror up to the people of Australia whom, upon reflection, found it difficult to face the reality of their collective ugliness: So began their campaign to try to make changes to the laws of New South Wales, and by doing so have seen the introduction of tougher laws for ‘coward punch’ deaths.

In the late evening of 7 July 2012, the Kelly’s phone rang, bringing with it the shocking news that their son Thomas was in Emergency at the Royal Price Alfred Hospital in Sydney and they needed to get there as soon as possible. Thomas was 18 years old.

Living more than a 90-minute drive from Sydney, they headed out into the night, not really understanding what fate held in store for them. Their precious son, out on his first real date in Kings Cross, had been the victim of a ‘coward punch’, delivered by a man with absolutely no connection to Thomas; a man in a rage, passing in a taxi, who simply decided to get out and ‘king hit’ someone!

As the Kelly’s struggled to recover from this terrific blow, slowing picking up and fitting the pieces back together in some kind of mosaic, their determination to campaign for change in the Laws commenced, backed by a raft of people who also saw a strong need for change in so many aspects of not just the Law, but of how society as a whole viewed the violence that was becoming all to easily accepted as a modern tragedy out of control.

Unfortunately for the Kelly family there was more tragedy waiting to occur, with the death of their youngest son Stuart, after his entry to the prestigious University of Sydney’s, St Pauls College. Once again, they received a call from Royal Price Alfred Hospital Emergency Department, this time from Stuart saying come and get him, immediately. He would not say why!

Months later, as the direct result of events that occurred at the College on that night, Stuart took his own life, leaving behind an unclear set of circumstances, but also beginning a serious investigation as to the horrific practice of ‘hazing’ undertaken there and the cover-up that had been part of the culture of the College for many, many years. Stuart was 19 years old.

Too Soon, Too Late is their story; cathartic and vulnerable, strong and full of yet unhealed sorrow; a story that reaches out to everyone who has ever faced the terribly darks nights of the of soul on the loss of their precious children, holding out hope for a better and brighter future, that change can happen.

Ralph and Kathy’s story, as well as their daughter Madelaine’s, is also a reminder that social change needs to take place before tragedy occurs, more young lives are senselessly lost and more families struggle to cope with the unreality of young lives taken all too soon.

Change has occurred as the direct result of Ralph and Kathy Kelly’s efforts through the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation and the Take Kare program now know as Stay Kind, continuing the good work of reaching out to vulnerable youth, focusing on the message of kindness and caring, rather than in Kathy’s words, accepting ‘a society where bullying, violence and sadness destroy the very essence of who we are. Think about that, be involved and demand a world where our children grow up where kindness is the norm.’

Too Soon, too late is a story that calls out and demands social change and one that will remain in the minds and hearts of people from every walk of life. Courageous and beautiful.

Author Ralph and Kathy Kelly
Publisher Allen and Unwin
ISBN 9781760632786
Distributor Allen and Unwin
Released May 2019