by Josh Fagan
A group of young Victorians are reaching out to the next generation to change the culture of violence.
The Step Back Think organisation says the rate of mindless drug and alcohol-fuelled attacks in Victoria,
The group - founded by young people in 2006 - said they want to speak to Bendigo schools about the consequences of cowardly violence.
Chief executive Hugh van Cuylenburg said the reality was that one punch can change, or end, a life.
He said the offending was "animalistic" and "mindless" and said it needed to be looked at like an infectious disease.
"We've had 94 deaths in the last 12 years. It's time to say that's enough."
Mr van Cuylenburg said education was the key to preventing more cases of people's lives being ruined or lost.
"We need to look at where it all begins, what causes people to act violently?"
He said the group used shock strategies to get the message through to high school students, and tried to explain the importance of not making snap decisions.
"We want to change the culture of society so that people ask the question 'is one punch worth it?'"
He said tougher penalties and mandatory jail sentences, such as those introduced in New South Wales this week, were just one way to address the issue.
Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre lawyer Bonnie Renou said education and preventative steps were more important ways to change behaviour than threats of long jail terms.
She said evidence didn't suggest punitive measures curbed violent attacks.
"The worry is that the majority of these offences are being committed by young people affected by drugs or alcohol and they're not conscious of their decision making at the time," she said.
"We know prisons can be really destructive places.
“There are so many things that might be more effective and aren’t going to have potentially terrible impacts on people’s lives, after one stupid decision."
Schools interested in contacting Step Back Think can find details at http://www.stepbackthink.org/
Source: Bendigo Advertiser, January 23 2014