Another life tragically cut short

By Anna O’Halloran – CEO, Step Back Think

The team at Step Back Think are devastated at the tragic and senseless death of 18 year old Cole Miller. Cole passed away on Monday 4 January 2016 after suffering traumatic brain injuries as a result of a single punch to the head.

We wish that it was enough to offer our sincere condolences to Cole’s family, friends and team mates. But it isn’t enough, because a young man’s life has been cut short by a senseless act of violence.

This one instance of social violence will have far reaching and devastating consequences. There are the consequences for Cole, and for his family and community, who are struggling to make sense of his senseless death, as well as the emergency workers and hospital staff who desperately tried to save his life. And there are also the consequences for the two young men accused of attacking Cole, who have ruined their own lives with the passing of Cole’s. There are no winners.

Unfortunately, the act that took Cole’s life is not uncommon. Social violence – interpersonal physical violence in a community setting – is prevalent in the community. Just last month another Queenslander, Trevor Duroux, died after a one-punch assault.

There were over 19,000 instances of social violence reported to Victoria Police in 2013-2014 alone*, with more than half of these victims (62%) assaulted by a stranger. Most of the victims (73%) were male and 56% were aged between 15-35 years.

Violence is a learned behaviour and the factors that influence individuals to make violent choices are complex and multidimensional. To prevent social violence we need to address violence supportive attitudes and norms and to challenge antisocial behaviour. This requires targeted and collaborative interventions at the individual, family and community level. An important place to start is to engage with young people: to educate them about the consequences of social violence and to empower them to promote respectful community relationships and safe social environments.

As a society, we need to continue to work together to eradicate incidents like this in our communities, to ensure that no other families suffer in the way Cole and Trevor's have.

* Victoria Police Corporate Statistics Department. Non-family violence related assault offences at non-residential locations 2013-2014.