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‘One of Melbourne’s big characters’: youth worker Les Twentyman dies aged 76 | Melbourne

The prominent Melbourne youth worker and social justice campaigner, Les Twentyman, has died aged 76.

The Les Twentyman Foundation announced his death in a statement on Saturday.

“Les inspired us all with his lifelong dedication to helping those in need and his profound contribution to our community has positively changed the lives of thousands of young Victorians and their families,” the foundation said.

“Our thoughts, love and prayers are with Les’s wife, Cherie, and his family at this most difficult time.”

Twentyman grew up in Braybrook in Melbourne’s west. He spent more than four decades campaigning on issues including youth homelessness, drug abuse, prison reform and social welfare, working in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

His Back to School program aimed to keep children in education, and provides textbooks and other required materials. The foundation said it has helped about 17,000 people stay in school since launching in 1989.

“In life Les was never afraid to say what was needed to be said, he gave a voice to the voiceless and leaves a legacy of helping the disadvantaged and those in need that will live long past his extraordinary life,” the foundation said.

Vale Les Twentyman, one of Melbourne’s big characters. We were in contact just this week and he worked right up til the last. Thoughts and prayers to his family, friends, colleagues and all the people he helped along his road less travelled. pic.twitter.com/lUWigXBeN5

— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) March 30, 2024

He was named Victorian of the Year in 2006 and given the medal of the Order of Australia in 1994.

Bill Shorten, the NDIS minister, paid tribute to Twentyman as “one of Melbourne’s big characters”.

“We were in contact just this week and he worked right up ‘til the last,” Shorten said in a social media post. “Thoughts and prayers to his family, friends, colleagues and all the people he helped along his road less travelled.”

The deputy premier of Victoria, Ben Carroll, said he was deeply saddened by the news.

“During my time in the portfolios of youth justice, crime prevention and education he was always helpful, reminding me to see the child first and focus on the causes of crime,” he posted on X.

“[Twentyman’s] work in early intervention saved lives.”




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