Final, sad farewell for 'social warrior' Les Twentyman

Political leaders and family have led tributes to prominent Melbourne youth worker Les Twentyman.

A state funeral was held at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Tuesday after Mr Twentyman's death in March aged 76.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan said Mr Twentyman was "darkly funny, fiercely honest" and well known for his big heart.

"(Since Les' passing) we have witnessed an outpouring of grief and gratitude," she said. 

"Stories from the many people whose lives were changed through Les' work, saved by Les' work."

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan
Jacinta Allan admitted "Les put me through my paces" while advocating for disadvantaged youths.

Ms Allan spoke about how every youth minister would meet Mr Twentyman upon taking up the role, something she did in 2002. 

"Les put me through my paces. And I know from many of the faces here today, I was not the only one," she said.  

"You (Les) simply refused to give up on this case, or allow them to give up on themselves.

"You lived a good life and on behalf of a grateful state, thank you Les, for your words and your work."

Federal Minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten, who was a friend of Mr Twentyman, said he was the same in public and in private. 

Federal Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten
Bill Shorten spoke of Mr Twentyman's his passion and determination to make Melbourne fairer.

"I learned that with Les, there was never a performance. It wasn't just an act," Mr Shorten said. 

"He was straight, no artifice, nothing put on. 

"No distance between his beliefs and his passion and his determination to make this city more fair."

Mr Shorten also paid tribute to Mr Twentyman's work that "reminds us of a part of Australian life which perhaps seems a memory".

"Les represented the Australian tradition, the old-school tradition, of showing kindness in another's troubles and courage in his own," he said.

"Les opened the eyes of so many to disadvantage, so we couldn't pretend it didn't exist."

Mr Twentyman was best known for his advocacy for disadvantaged and vulnerable Victorians, tackling issues such as youth homelessness, drug abuse, prison reform and social welfare.

The hearse carrying Les Twentyman's casket at St Patrick's Cathedral
Mr Twentyman's family asked people to donate to the Les Twentyman Foundation in lieu of flowers.

A foundation bearing his name, worked to engage young people with their education, families and communities.

Garry Twentyman said his brother would have been taken aback by the honour of a state funeral service. 

"I'm quite sure that Les is looking down here now thinking 'Geez, I'd have loved to have been up on that microphone in front of all those people'," he said.

"I never got a crowd that big before'."

Mr Twentyman's family requested people contribute to the Les Twentyman Foundation in lieu of flowers.

Born the eldest of five children to fruit shop owners in 1948, he was raised in Melbourne's western suburb of Braybrook.

He was a member of the Save the Dogs committee when the Western Bulldogs AFL team, then known as Footscray, were close to merging with Fitzroy in 1989.

The club's head coach Luke Beveridge also attended the memorial.

Mr Twentyman was a candidate for Victorian parliament's upper house in 1992 and 1996 and in the lower house at the Kororoit by-election in 2008.

He received an Order of Australia in 1994 for his service to youth as an outreach worker and was named Victorian of the Year in 2006.

Australian flags flew half-mast on Victorian government buildings on Tuesday as a mark of respect.

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