A Mission From God
German born Harald Falge moved to Australia in 1969, graduated from Chiropractic College in 1974, then moved to Cairns in 1979. Harald is survived by wife Sally, three children and a number of grandchildren.
“I was a fairly hard type of man,” Harald said of his younger years “I was doing martial arts and travelling around the world most of the time and I really had little compassion for other people.” Little did he know he would be serving the Cairns community in a mighty way.
Harald was the Youth Director of the Cairns Baptist Church between 1987 and 1991. It was during this period that members of the Church’s Youth Group told him of the plight of some of the disadvantaged and homeless young people of Cairns.
Then Pastor, Reverend Rob Furlong, along with the Church Deacons, not only gave Harald their blessings, but a free reign to start and nurture a new outreach programme – something that the Church had never tried before.
Harald had to find street kids to help. Not personally knowing any, let alone how to go about approaching them or what to say, it appeared that Harald had his work cut out for him.
Three days later, the answer to Harald’s problem came to him unexpectedly. Harald – a chiropractor – was in his office, when his receptionist entered to tell him that there was a young boy in the waiting room. The boy had said that he was a street kid and had no money, but that he was suffering with a sore back, and was hoping that Harald could treat him free of charge.
Harald could not believe what was happening. He says that God sent this boy to his practice.
Harald agreed to treat the boy, and afterwards told him about his plan to help the homeless and disadvantaged young people of Cairns. Harald admitted that he did not know how to go about it, and asked the boy if he thought there was a need for the kind of service that he wanted to set up.
The boy, who was sixteen at the time, was thrilled about what Harald wanted to do, and in a little over a week, he had introduced Harald to a number of his fellow street kids. What they needed, the street kids told Harald, was access to food at night and weekends, when the rest of the youth agencies in Cairns were closed.
In the early days, Harald and his wife, Sally – sometimes assisted by their children – would cook the meals for the street kids at home, and drive to The Esplanade to distribute them from their car. They also delivered meals to young people in squats around the city.
Soon, members of the Cairns Baptist Church offered to make meals for the young people. Money was even donated to purchase a mobile phone so that the shelters could be contacted if young people need a place to stay. Before long, some families offered to take in homeless youths for a few nights, until other arrangements could be made.
After a few months distributing food to homeless and disadvantaged young people, Thursday to Saturday nights, it became apparent that what the kids really needed was to eat seven days a week like everyone else. In 1991, he established the volunteer organisation Street Level Youth Care. The non profit organisation runs a van that volunteers drive to the local park every night where young people under the age of 21 can receive a free meal.
There is often an impressive turnout and each kid has to write their name on a sheet. Harald often studied these sheets, learning names. On a couple of occasions he would say hello to kids who didn’t even realise he knew their name.
“How do you know who I am?” they say.
“I know lots of things,” Harald would reply.
This says something about how Harald had changed since he first started feeding kids back in 1991.
“I would never, ever show any emotion [before I started this],” he said. “My lovely wife never saw me cry until I started working with street kids. It’s only through that experience that I can get really emotional. I can cry with the kids and I can also cry when I go home. Because, some of the things [these kids have been through] are horrendous. You can’t imagine why they happen. So it obviously has changed me quite a bit emotionally.”
Harald also wanted to promote a sense of self worth and guide them in a positive direction. The organisation’s policy is to be non-judgmental and non-discriminatory, working within personal relationships based on trust and mutual respect.
In April 2012, another long held dream of Harald’s was realised, when Harald’s House was officially opened. Able to accommodate six young people, the AU$2 million, purpose built facility was funded entirely through donations, with local businesses donating furniture, white goods, etc. Though this accommodation facility has now closed, Harald’s positive impact on the homeless youth of Cairns has been extraordinary.
Recognition for Hard Work
The highest recognition of Harald’s vision came in 2008, when he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his work with young people and the homeless. Harald was named Australian of the Year “Australia’s Local Hero” State Finalist (QLD) 2009, and was a winner of the Pride of Australia (QLD) Fair Go Awards in 2012.
Harald died peacefully in his sleep sometime Tuesday evening, 21st February 2017.
The funeral service will be held at St Monica’s Cathedral, Tuesday 28th February at 10am.
In loving memory of Harald Falge.
Hansen, B (2013). The Saints of Cairns – Harald Falge And SLYC. Accessed 22.2.17 from http:// www.infobarrel.com/The_Saints_of_Cairns_-_Harald_Falge_And_SLYC
NADC (2013). Honour Roll. Accessed 22.2.17 from http://www.australianoftheyear.org.au/honourroll/?view=fullView&recipientID=331
David, S (2008). Uncle Harald. Accessed 22.2.17 from http://www.abc.net.au/local/ stories/2008/11/14/2420416.htm