Background

Denis O’Reilly

I come into the provision of services as a 'resultant' from an eclectic life experience, a wide range of training, and an unusual cluster of skills.

I was educated at St Patrick's High School, Timaru. Immediately after leaving high school I went to the Marist Fathers‚ seminary in Greenmeadows, spending a year there as an aspirant priest.

I'm no saint

By common agreement the priesthood wasn't for me but, still imbued with a sense of mission around issues of social justice, I joined a Wellington based group of activists called Community Volunteers as a fieldworker with the Tenants Protection Association.

In 1972 this doorstep activism led me to join the Black Power and by 1975 I had become the national organisor of the gang. This brought me to the attention of the then Prime Minister Rob Muldoon, and he challenged me to apply my skills for the good.

Getting to the cause of the problem

I was appointed as the prototype 'Detached Youth Worker' through the Department of Internal Affairs. In 1977 I was awarded a Commonwealth Youth Fellowship to travel to Jamaica to look at what was happening with Rastafarianism and the 'Rude Bwoy' gang problem, and then on to Brixton in London to learn about the causes of the youth gang rioting that was beginning to occur around the housing estates.

Back in New Zealand I took on a community development job with Internal Affairs and then moved into mainstream roles in that Department's Head Office. In 1981 I again travelled to Great Britain at the invitation of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Lisbon) visiting the trouble spots of Brixton, Toxteth and Belfast.

After Ken Comber's Committee on Gangs‚ (1981) I joined the newly established Group Employment Liaison Service, a unit based within the Department of Labour, which had a brief to get government services to hard to reach groups. After a period as a fieldworker, I was appointed as the Executive Officer, and following that, Chief Executive.

This led to a senior management role as a Director within the New Zealand Employment Service. I then undertook an MBA programme in Australia (which I never completed) and was selected to attend the Commonwealth Studies held at Oxford University in 1992. This enabled me to revisit Toxteth to assess what had happened since the policies and programmes introduced after Lord Scarman's report on the race riots that had blighted the area in the 1980's.

Creating change

On my return to New Zealand I was recruited as the Manager of Marketing and Communications for Internal Affairs, eventually becoming the change manager during a restructure, and then the Director of the New Zealand Millennium Office.

Following this I went into business on my own account taking up a series of strategic change management assignments working as part of the Focused Change International team in a project for Pennsylvania Power and Light in Chile, Brazil, and El Salvador.

I continue to work in both the public and private sectors. I manage a national programme that aims to reduce the manufacture, distribution and use of methamphetamine. It is called Mokai Whanau Ora and is part of the Ministry of Health's CAYAD programme.

I chair the Waiohiki Community Charitable Trust, a community arts and enterprise organisation in Hawke's Bay. I am also chair of the Consultancy Advocacy and Research Trust in Wellington. This Trust works with over 70 hard to reach families, providing health services, training and employment.

I have continued to undertake study, and have completed a Masters Degree in Social Practice.

Denis O'Reilly

An eclectic life experience, a wide range of training, and an unusual cluster of skills