Together we can end the coward punch – the Pat Cronin Foundation

Pat Cronin was a young university student on a normal Saturday night out with mates when he was punched from behind, and later died. His family is working to end the coward punch and educate young people, writes Geoff Smith, from the Pat Cronin Foundation.

As parents, we all worry about our kids when they are small and vulnerable. We worry about our own parents as they get older. We worry about loved ones who are ill. Not many of us worry about the death of a child in their prime. They know how to look after themselves, they are capable. We’ve shown them how to stay safe, we’ve taught them right from wrong. We don’t worry when they go for a normal night out with their friends – why would we?

The Cronin family – Emma, Robyn, Lucas, Matt, and Pat

'If this could happen to Pat, it could happen to anyone.'

The Cronin family were just like any other family. They live in a normal suburb, did normal things, went normal places. They were a normal family.

Until they weren’t any more.

Pat Cronin was enjoying a normal Saturday night with his mates after playing footy when a brawl broke out. Pat was punched from behind while trying to pull a mate clear. Pat was not knocked out and didn’t fall but two hours later he had a seizure and was rushed to hospital. Two days later his parents faced the agony of turning off the life support system because of an inoperable bleed in his brain.

If this could happen to Pat, it could happen to anyone.

His family, parents Matt and Robyn, sister Emma and brother Lucas created the Pat Cronin Foundation to honour the memory of Pat, and work to prevent coward punch attacks by raising awareness and educating young people to make violence unacceptable.

At the Pat Cronin Foundation launch: Richmond great and foundation ambassador Matthew Richardson, with Robyn and Matt Cronin.

Taking the message to schools

The Pat Cronin Foundation honours Pat by providing an optimistic voice to awareness, education and research about the coward punch. Helping people feel empowered to make change through wise decisions.

Our presentations to high schools use Pat’s story to illustrate the potentially fatal consequences of even one punch, and helps students make choices that will help them be part of the solution to End the Coward Punch. We ask them to reflect on actions and emotions and how they can ensure they reject violence and but still deal safely with conflict and potential violence from others.

In 2019 we reached 80 Victorian high schools with our presentations and aim for 200 in 2020. The engagement from students has been remarkable. Our key is not to lecture but to encourage students to reflect and build their own ideas and make their own plans.

‘This presentation makes you think about everything you do.’ – Year 11, Carey Baptist Grammar School.

‘No-one wins in a fight this has changed my mind about being aggressive to win.’ – Year 11, Trinity Grammar School.

Teacher feedback has also been very supportive and indicates strong student engagement:

‘It had a profound effect on the students and many of them were impacted.’ – Year 11 coordinator.

‘It certainly got through to the boys the senselessness of violence and especially the coward punch.’  –Year 11 teacher.

In response to requests from teachers, in 2020 we are extending our presentations to a whole of school approach. We have added presentations for all ages, teacher lead classroom materials, and we will be publishing storybooks for primary age students later in the year. Screenings of our documentary with invitations extended to parents and the community rounds out our whole of school approach and match our belief that ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’

Pat was punched by someone who had not learned right from wrong. Someone not capable of acting normally. Someone who had not learned lessons from parents or teachers on how to be a decent person. He may or may not reflect on this in his time in prison.

How can you help?

Action can be taken by each of us to put an end to this senseless violence:

Be Wise for Parents

  • Share and discuss Pat’s story with your child and their friends
  • Lead by example, consider your own attitudes to anger aggression and confrontation and act how you hope others will
  • Share and discuss Pat’s story with other parents you know
  • Introduce us to a school or club that could host a Be Wise session that your child would be a participant in –

Be Wise for Teachers

As well as contributing to a positive learning environment, our messages also equip students with future strategies and tools for school and later life.

  • Share and discuss Pat’s story with students and colleagues
  • Bring a Be Wise Presentation, classroom resource or documentary to your school
  • Connect us with colleagues at other schools, through

We are currently a small dedicated foundation, with an important and indisputable cause. We remain committed to the belief that this will help change attitudes and behaviour in the Australian community. This in turn will make Australia a safe and friendly environment to grow up and live in – a society free from coward punches.

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