Mother of three Kathy Kelly has had to bury two of her children.
Her eldest son, Thomas Kelly, died after he was coward punched while on a night out in Sydney’s King Cross in 2012. He was 18.
His younger brother Stuart died by suicide in July last year. He was also 18.
Now Kathy Kelly has spoken to Business Chicks about her grief, their family’s work, and the legacy of her two sons.
“I’m 55, I could have another 30 years left ahead of me, but I’ve done what I wanted to do,” Kathy told Business Chicks.
“I’ve had fun, I got married, I’ve had love in my life, I’ve had children, who are the love of your life, and most of that’s been taken away from me. So sometimes I feel like what’s the point? But you have to make a point because what would Madeleine do without us?”
Madeline is the Kelly’s 21-year-old daughter.
Since the death of Thomas in 2012, the family have worked to set up the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation and lobbied for safer streets.
They’ve pushed for stricter laws and punishment around alcohol and drug-related violence. And they’ve started education programs in schools to try and address the dangerous drinking culture shared by young people in Australia.
Last week, the Foundation also launched a Stay Kind initiative. (Stay Kind has the same initials as Stuart Kelly). The movement is about kindness and caring for one another. Australia is currently seeing its highest rate of youth suicide in a decade.
"People say to me all the time, ‘you’re so strong. I wouldn’t be able to do that if that was my child.’ And I get quite hurt by that," Kathy said.
"I know that people always mean it in the nicest possible way, but it makes me feel like I’m some cold person. They don’t think they’d be able to do it because they’d be in a heap."
"Well, I’ve been in a heap plenty of days. I’m in a heap many days of the week. Some days I just cry. But at the end of the day, I get up because what else am I going to do? And I have to because we still have Madeleine."
As well as her loss, Kathy also spoke about her anger at the criminal justice system for making the aftermath of Thomas' death so difficult.
Kieran Loveridge, who was found guilty of manslaughter causing the death of 18-year-old Thomas Kelly, was originally sentenced to four years behind bars; a sentence described as "manifestly inadequate" in a statement issued by the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Lloyd Babb in November, 2013.
The original sentence was appealed, and Loveridge is now serving at least 10 years imprisonment for manslaughter, as well as a string of other assault offences for the same night.
Annette and Stuart Baker and Frank and Alley Barret are members of a terrible club. Both families lost teenage children to suicide. Post continues below.
This result, as well as lobbying efforts by the Kelly family, lead to the introduction of 'one punch' laws in NSW.
The legislation, passed by the State Government in 2014, dictates a mandatory eight-year prison term for anyone who fatally punches someone while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“I guess you think that nothing like this will ever happen to you, but when it does, you feel that the justice system will look after you as a victim and we found it was nothing like that," Kathy said. "And I think that’s what made me so angry. We had to fight every step of the way to get the justice that we did for Thomas.”