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Sunnykids’ Chris Turner on why every kid deserves the best

Chris Turner

People

Sunnykids’ Chris Turner on why every kid deserves the best

Chris Turner is the CEO of Sunshine Coast charity SunnyKids. He started the children’s charity in 2009 and in 2011 he launched the national literacy program Read2remember.

First job? Apprentice panel beater when I was 16. I’m fairly sure I was Australia’s worst panel beater. As a young person I struggled to find my way; my dad told me I should go get a trade, but probably I should have finished school and gone to university.

What are you currently working on? We’re in the midst of piloting our village buddies mentoring program – we have 50 adult mentors matched with 50 children who need another positive adult in their life. There’s a lot of work that goes into recruiting, screening and training and matching mentors, and we’re particularly excited as we see it very much as a preventative tool: instead of waiting for families to get into difficult we’re getting in early.

Your family includes… My partner Gayle and seven kids between us. Four adult kids and three younger ones.

First car? A 1971 Holden Torana. I went on to own every model Torana that was ever made. Exciting cars and affordable for a young guy.

Best advice you’ve been given? It came from my mum and it was to play nicely and share. We expect it of every seven-year-old but we don’t seem to expect it of ourselves as adults.

What is your favourite place on the Sunshine Coast? Cotton Tree caravan park at Christmas. It’s surprising how many locals are there.

If you could change one thing on the Coast, what would it be? Not much. We become the first community in Australia to make sure every kid gets the opportunities they deserve. It’s not okay when that child doesn’t get that opportunity, whether through economics, social or emotional health, education; whatever the reason, when the child has that opportunity taken away it’s the disappointment of a lifetime. People can join our child sponsorship program whereby for as little as $10 they could secure a village buddy for a vulnerable child.

Best day in your life? Every day is the best day of my life.

Can you nominate a day in your life that turned out to be a turning point? I ended up homeless on the beaches of France after following someone’s poor advice and I really learned what it’s like to have nothing. The advice was that there was plenty of work there. I was holidaying in the UK, was led to believe all I had to do was hitchhike to the south of France and I’d get a job in the hotels down there but there was no money to get back home. I ended up staying there for three months, lived on the beach with a bunch of other homeless people. I was about 20.

Your greatest regret? I think not believing in myself enough as a young person. In my mid-20s I went back to high school and studied at night school and suddenly in a different context I discovered I was quite a good student. From there I went on to university and got the qualifications I needed to do the work I do today.

What achievement are you most proud of? Last year I built myself a house. For someone who had no experience of that, it was a big achievement. In a broader sense, my work with SunnyKids – I feel pretty good about that – and, of course, my family.

You are happiest when? I’m on the golf course.

What frustrates you the most? Injustice. When people in positions of power – and by that I mean most middle-class Australians – take advantage of that at the expense of people who don’t have any power.

How do you deal with your frustrations? Work harder for SunnyKids and try and change it.

If you could tell your 18-year-old self anything, what would it be? Believe in yourself.

Tea or coffee? Tea. Black.

NRL or AFL? NRL. The Broncos.

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