Vicar with Ticker – Australia Post, January 5th, 2002


He’s as comfortable punching as he is preaching – which is just as well for the hundreds of teenagers this fighting father figure has saved from a life on the streets

Flying-fisted Father Dave Smith knows all about the school of hard knocks. He’s felt betrayed and hopeless, and even attempted suicide after the breakdown of his first marriage.

But Dave believes that such experiences only amplify his calling to bring others back from the brink of self-destruction.

While there are plenty in the clergy who are reaching out to their lost flock, the difference with Father Dave is, he lets his fists do the talking.

To help keep his Holy Trinity Youth Centre afloat, and his kids out of trouble, Father Dave indulges his pugilistic passion by organising fight nights and educational tours to schools and churches in Sydney.

The ring is a great leveler”, he says.

Many of my kids had never boxed before they came in here off the street, they were the rough ones always getting into trouble and abusing themselves.

“But with discipline and respect they’ve learned to work through their problems and make something of themselves.

“In some ways, they were just like me when I was growing up – I was just lucky that the drugs that circulate so freely today weren’t available to me then, otherwise I would’ve gladly taken a handful of whatever was going.

And putting into practice what he preaches, the 35-year-old – who fought professionally in his younger days – still manages to bring together some useful combinations for a good cause.

Father Dave has conducted 12 fight nights since 1994, when he transformed a disused church hall in Petersham, in Sydney’s inner west, into a place of salvation. And he has fought in every one of them!

I try and raise money other ways. but all they want to do is see me fight.” he says of his congregation.

What he’s most proud of, though, is the commitment of his charges who have had to overcome their own demons just to summon the courage to step into the ring.

But it’s not been easy – the pugilistic parson can’t recall how many nights he’s spent at the police lock-up after one of his boys has jumped off the wagon, with the youth centre itself a target for theft and vandalism on more than one occasion.

But it’s the small victories that make a big difference to him, like knowing you’ve helped keep someone out of gaol.

“Humans are reasonably simple, we only want three things; to live, to love, and to leave a legacy,” says the clergyman with clout.

When I take these guys to schools and they’re able to demonstrate their boxing skills and tell kids more fortunate than themselves how to avoid making the mistakes they have, you can see the difference it makes to their lives – that’s their legacy.

“They’re tough guys, they don’t do drugs and they’re trying to help each other out.


Gil Peres first heard about Father Dave when he was in gaol for assault-related offences.

Although he “never got stuck into the hard drugs”, Gil is the first to admit he couldn’t control his anger when intoxicated with alcohol or marijuana. When he was released, one of the first things he did was track down Father Dave.

Now clean from drugs and booze, Gil works six days a week and dedicates much of his spare time to helping out around the centre.

He had his first kickboxing fight last month, and, although disappointed with a loss, his approach to life is typical of the transformation that can occur with some confidence and respect. “I feel like part of the family here,” he says.

We get together and help one another, we want to get as many young people off the streets as we can and brainwash them into adopting the positive lifestyle.”

Australia Post
Original Article
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About Father Dave

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four
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