By January 2014, Australians were sick and tired of young people’s lives being destroyed by mindless violence during nights of heavy drinking. Devastating one punch attacks, which were then referred to as “king hits”, were causing increasing concern.
At that time, 18-year-old Daniel Christie (above) was in a critical condition after being attacked by a stranger on New Year’s Eve. His distraught family made a push to call this kind of violence a “coward punch”.
When Daniel died from his injuries, Australians stood behind the Christie family, doing away with the old language. One punch attacks are now indeed commonly referred to as “coward punches”.
The man who killed Daniel, Shaun McNiell, was sentenced to the maximum of 10 years imprisonment.
Outside the NSW Supreme Court, Daniel’s father, Michael Christie, said he hoped that Daniel’s death would be a catalyst for a change in the public’s attitude towards alcohol-fuelled violence.
Mr Christie told the ABC, “As Daniel said, ‘If change is to be it’s up to me’; and that was his mantra and how he lived his life.”
Two years after Daniel’s tragic death, we have seen some changes. There is less tolerance from the Australian public for coward punch attacks and alcohol-fuelled violence generally.
Yet some feel the changes haven’t gone far enough – they certainly weren’t enough to prevent the death of 18-year-old Cole Miller, who died just last month from a coward punch attack.
Many Australians believe more needs to be done to stem the tide of street violence, which has claimed far more than just the lives of Daniel and Cole.
Queensland Senator Glenn Lazarus is on a personal mission to stamp out alcohol-fuelled violence in that State. Acknowledging Cole’s tragic death and a glassing attack on his own son, Senator Lazarus said he has had enough. He announced this week that he will be calling for a federal parliamentary inquiry.
“It seems as though every week we are seeing sickening cases of people being killed or permanently injured as a result of non-provoked alcohol fuelled attacks,” he said.
“States and territories are dealing with the issue of alcohol fuelled violence in different ways. Some states are doing more than others.
“Clearly, as a nation, the Federal Government needs to show leadership and develop in partnership with all states and territories a national strategy to address the issue in a consistent and comprehensive manner.”
Senator Lazarus is not alone in his fight against street violence. Last week, three-time Australian kickboxing champion, Paul Gibson, brought more than 100 boxers together in a meeting on the New South Wales north coast, where they discussed how to beat the problem.
Mr Gibson, legendary coach Arthur Maloney, and former Olympian and Commonwealth boxing champions, Athol McQueen and Justin Roswell, took the opportunity to talk to the ABC condemning coward punch attacks.
Mr Gibson told the ABC, “It’s not boxers who do it, it’s idiots just going out and doing it. It’s a dog act, a coward thing.”
Mr McQueen, who became famous after being the first fighter to floor American ‘Smokin” Joe Frazier at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, agreed:
“Boxers don’t do these sorts of things, they’re people who want to be a boxer and can’t be a boxer.
“Mainly it’s alcohol and drugs. You take the drugs and alcohol out and there wouldn’t be one-punch attacks.”
Mr Roswell said things are worse now than they were.
“In the old days you’d be a dog. It’s just a different era I suppose, but it’s certainly not accepted in my way of thinking,” he said.
Mr Maloney, who has been a boxing coach for over 55 years, believes the sport of boxing teaches kids about anger and violence. He said:
“Some of the schools send kids up for anger-management classes and they really love boxing.
“There’s a lot in boxing that brings you down to the right level and teaches you to respect other people.
“We teach them, you’re learning this is a sport and not to carry it onto the streets, and we tell them about the consequences if they do.
“They call it a coward’s punch: that’s what it is when they run up and hit them from behind.
“It’s just not the right thing to do.”
It is hoped that changing community attitudes towards alcohol-fuelled violence will lead to a reduction in senseless attacks on our streets.