This week saw the launch of Real Heroes Walk Away, the national campaign against violence which aims to end the king-hit culture that has seen so many young Australian men killed or injured in random and often drunken assaults.

The Kellys at a Service of Thanks for Thomas Kelly. Pic: Tom Hartrey

The campaign, launched by News Limited newspapers and the national website, is different from other campaigns in that it doesn’t demand that the government act or the police do more. Rather, it is framed around a belief in personal responsibility. The only way this problem can ever be solved is if individuals take ownership of their actions and think through the consequences of those actions.

The only way this behaviour can ever be challenged is if good blokes speak up and intervene when they see their mates acting in a violent fashion.

The campaign was being worked on for several weeks but was given added impetus with the terrible death in Kings Cross of 18-year-old Thomas Kelly, the alleged victim of a king hit by a stranger to whom he had never uttered a word.

The sad reality is that there have been many other cases like Thomas Kelly’s.

Unless people change their behaviour there will be more. As such, a campaign that calls on people to assess their behaviour is something which can hopefully challenge the grim monotony that now characterises these crimes.

While the campaign has at its centre a call for personal responsibility, it also canvasses two other issues.

The first is whether there is merit in the Federal Government overseeing a national awareness campaign that could be rolled out in schools where the message of non-violence could be instilled into boys.

The second issue is whether there is value in the adoption of so-called king-hit laws which introduce a special category in the Crimes Act to deal with the most heinous and lethal cases of unprovoked violence.

We haven’t issued this call in the traditional media manner of a demand for tougher laws. Rather, we’re calling for a thoughtful examination by all the state attorneys-general about whether the laws can actually help.

The background to this comes from Western Australia, where the Attorney-General in the former Labor Government, Jim McGinty, introduced special king-hit laws in 2008 after a spate of random violence had gripped Perth.

Mr McGinty told during the week that the WA laws - the only legislation of its kind in Australia so far - had an immediate effect on the number of one-punch deaths when it was introduced. Previously, someone guilty of a deadly king hit could escape conviction because they would not be found guilty of manslaughter or murder.

“That left the community with a sense of the failure of the justice system when someone responsible for the death of a loved one walked free,” Mr McGinty said. “The cause of death was hitting their head on the ground, so there was sufficient disconnect (to gain an acquittal).”

Mr McGinty said that there were similar holes in laws across Australia, meaning that the cause of death would be sheeted home to something other than the assailant.

It seems kind of absurd, given that the only reason a healthy person suddenly ends up lying on the ground, their head smashing against the footpath, is because they’ve been decked by somebody.

Mr McGinty wants the rest of the nation to look at the WA experience. Fourteen cases have now gone before the courts, resulting in eight convictions.

“I would advocate that each state and territory look at an offence that is between assault and manslaughter,” he said. “Our laws were designed to send a clear message. If you commit an act of violence, you’ll be found guilty. Where there’s a death, families find it insulting.”

Critics of the laws say while they may have resulted in tougher sentencing, they have still not done anything to stop the procession of violence in WA.

They argue that a drunk or angry bloke with a history of not controlling his rage is not going to stop and think about the legal ramifications of belting somebody when they are fired up and full of ink.

It is probably a valid criticism in terms of stopping the violence. It is not a valid one against making sure that people are actually put away for deadly assaults, rather than being able to blame it all on the footpath. Whether the civil libertarians like it or not, part of the role of imprisonment is to satisfy the public’s valid sense of vengeance, whereby someone who goes around king-hitting innocent bystanders is rightly precluded from taking part in civil society, ideally for a very long time.

It is a discussion well worth having.

As a general reader of news, not so much as a journo, the one thing that drives me mad is hearing cases where a card-carrying thug is able to convince a court he is the victim of extenuating circumstances on account of being provoked, being boozy, having been hit himself as a child - whatever piss-weak excuses their defence lawyers dolly up.

Beyond that though, while it is important to have the debate about these legalities, the only thing that will fix this is individuals. Not the courts, not the cops, not the government.

The only thing young blokes really care about is what their mates think of them. If we can get to a point where violence is so desperately unfashionable that everyone will regard you as a loser and treat you as such if you go around decking people, the problem will be as good as solved.

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    • Damian Parkhill says:

      10:16am | 29/07/12

      While I agree with everything Penbo says, I’m getting worried about the continued knee-jerk reaction by people calling for shorter club hours and raising of the drinking age.

      It seems that very few people want to tackle the perps themselves.

    • Lorraine says:

      04:34pm | 29/07/12

      I agree Damian. Club Hours and raising the drinking age are not solutions. In the first couple of paragraphs Penbo talks of responsibililty and this is were the solution lies.
      There is a trend towards the belief that someone else is to blame for our shortcomings. It seems it is always the other fellows fault and therefore perfectly appropriate to deal out our own form of justice.
      Who taught Thomas’s perpetrator that it is Ok to king hit a perfect stranger? Because someone did either by word or example.

    • Rebecca says:

      10:25am | 30/07/12

      Raising the drinking age will not solve violence and binge drinking problems. The real issue is that so many people drink for the purpose of getting completely and utterly smashed.

      I do wonder what things would be like if we adopted the culture of some European countries, where children drink small amounts of wine at family meals. Would it remove the desire in teenagers to rebel through forbidden behaviours and drink to excess? Would it get rid of the novelty of getting drunk? I don’t know, but it’s a thought.

    • Anjuli says:

      10:32am | 29/07/12

      Why does this generation need to resort to fighting ,is it all the violence shown on TV where the actors get slaughtered then we see them again the next week on another show.  Is it the violent computer games , or is this result of doing drugs, these people have lost all reasoning . What ever it is it makes me fear for my grand children, one of which is high functioning autistic ,also other children who are vulnerable and at risk of being set on by these thugs. What chance have they if well adjusted and fit young men are being murdered that is the word I use, by these thugs.

    • grant says:

      08:47pm | 29/07/12

      In most westernised countries.

      - crimes rates are down
      - social economical status has improved
      - it is safer than ever before

      Just like most of the people who comment here.  There is an amplified perception of risk of crime victimisation. Its not really your fault; media reports and other information inflates your perception of crime. series/tandi/381-400/tandi396.aspx

    • Rebecca says:

      12:12pm | 30/07/12

      You say that as if violence is a new thing.

    • spanky says:

      10:34am | 29/07/12

      More to the point where are these kids getting all this anger from. Is it poor parenting, computer games or media in general.  Why is this common place in society now as opposed to 60,s,70,s and 80,s.  I mean sure blokes have fights but now there seems to be a kill mentality with some people around this time. I know majority of kids are good and well behaved but that small minority that is the cause of the trouble seems to be increasing each year and we can do nothing to stop it.

    • Cry in my Gin says:

      11:54am | 29/07/12

      It is not that it did not exist in the past. It just became media fodder. I think it was worse in the past. You just never heard of it.

    • DexteR says:

      12:36pm | 29/07/12

      I believe it’s lack of fear, no fear of authority, no fear of consequence, no fear of societal repercussions.  In prior times if you disrespected a cop or heaven forbid hit one you’d cop a hiding out the back of the station.  If you assaulted someone the judge wouldn’t give a rats arse if you had a hard upbringing.  The continuing descent of our society into soft cockery and lack of personal responsibility is largely to blame

    • Paul kersey says:

      03:28pm | 29/07/12

      Cry In My Gin You are so wrong -it was not as vicious in the past , knives were not an Australian thing , plus now they hunt in packs and when they get a person down on the ground and not able to harm them they put the boots in . And taking the drinking age to 21 would be a good thing and the magistrates are to light on offenders when caught . Singapore solution would be good.
      If not I know how to stop them

    • Grant says:

      10:09pm | 29/07/12

      @ Spanky

      Don’t let facts get in the way mate. Just make stuff up to back your argument.

      Deaths resulting from external sources, which includes assault have more than halved since the 1900’s.

      “Mortality over the twentieth century in Australia” Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra, 2006

    • spanky says:

      07:51am | 30/07/12

      @ Grant
      Lets not let those facts get in the way mate crime/assault.aspx from 9000 assaults per month in 1995 to about 16000 per month in 2008 sure seems like a downward spiral to me.

    • Cry in my Gin says:

      11:02am | 29/07/12

      Nice try. Cannot see it working. It reminds me of the “just say no” anti drugs campaign of the 80’s. Good intentions, but…..

    • ZSRenn says:

      11:07am | 29/07/12

      I find it hilarious that News Limited has launched this campaign. News Limited who’s Fox arm promotes in music videos everyday with a bad boy image that has become so prevalent in our society.

      If News Limited are not going to sound so hypocritical by promoting this campaign then they should do something about its root cause and stop promoting violence as a way of life!

    • Bear says:

      05:33pm | 29/07/12

      News ltd only promote what sells. Chest-beating moralizing is in on the gutter media platforms so that’s what us here. All this “cracking down” bs is mire about making us feel better and sell news than fixing anything. A. The problems are overstated b. Reducing the drinking age of say beer and wine, allowing it, but in the company of an adult like in Europe is the way to go. Anything that is forbidden the more ppl want it.When you’re 18 it’s no big deal, no need to go nuts by hitting it hard.

    • Chris says:

      08:48pm | 29/07/12

      Bear - its perfectly legal for a minor to consume alcohol at home with the permission of their parents / guardians so not much would change. But it’s worth noting that those who do start drinking earlier are more likely to end up binge drinking. So you have to do more than just expose them to alcohol and actively teach children about the responsible consumption of alcohol.

    • Bruce says:

      12:18pm | 29/07/12

      It is also up to the society - 24 hour liquor trading does not a good society make.

    • BenG says:

      12:57pm | 29/07/12

      It all boils down to a lack of respect. Everything else is just an excuse.

    • Ridge says:

      05:35pm | 30/07/12

      Correct observation, but no solution.  Where does the lack of respect come from?

    • thatmosis says:

      12:59pm | 29/07/12

      Its time the responsibility for raising children was given back to the parents and the parents made responsible for their children’s behaviour. Children are taught from an early age that their rights overshadow what ever a parent might say or want them to do and this has led to the rise in people who have no constraints placed on them from an early age running riot.
        Add to this the courts revolving door punishments and the sum total is a complete disregard for them selves and other people. To often we see violent offenders who have maimed and even killed people getting off with sentence so light its disgusting.
        Its time that we were given what was promised, Truth in Sentencing and any Magistrate or Judge that cant do this released from his or her commitment to law enforcement.
        Its time these so called parenting experts crawled back into their cosy little holes and political correctness thrown in the bin allowing the Police, teachers and those responsible for children to d o their job with the threat of punishment as a deterrent to all those in their charge.

    • mattkas says:

      05:22pm | 29/07/12

      Thatmosis, if you had ever been the parent of teenage children you woudn’t say that parents should be made responsible for their children’s behaviour. How incredibly unjust would that be?

    • Maryjane says:

      06:07pm | 29/07/12

      A few years ago the mother of one of my students threatened to ‘bash the daylights’ out of me for giving her son detention.  The boy had taken another student’s bag out of class and hidden it. I saw him leave with it.  He told his mother that he didn’t do it.  She believed him and told me that I was a liar.  Ergo that kid knew he could get away with anything and it was not an isolated incident.  There are many wonderful kids who make great citizens but a dangerous few with such a sense of entitlement that is’s frightening.

    • Helen says:

      12:45am | 31/07/12

      thatmosis…. I have nephews who have been taught about “their rights” by the parents.

      What I’ve learnt from my nephew through watching him with others is that its very hard to instill discipline after kids have learnt that “no can mean no, but if you keep whining I will give in”. What he learnt from me is that no means no, and whining will only strengthen my resolve. We get on well :D

    • Ellie says:

      01:02pm | 29/07/12

      I see these people as losers and have on occasion called them that to their face. I can only hope one of these days all these psychos pick on someone bigger and tougher who beats the crap out of them so they can get a taste of their own medicine. I wouldn’t normally condone violence but god that would be good to see.

    • Ridge says:

      05:47pm | 30/07/12

      Well, that’s the common sense, natural reaction.  But legislation and litigation is so bad nowadays that walking away is legally, the only safe option.  If someone attacks you and you beat them, unintentionally killing them..

      “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”

      Yet as early as schoolchildren, we’re taught to not hit back or physically defend.  A child must defer to authority.  That system breaks down when people become old enough to kill from the first hit.

    • Hossak says:

      01:13pm | 29/07/12

      Poor parenting. I have been exposed to violent video games and movies all my life and I have never felt the need to smack someone in the chops for no good reason - in fact for any reason. Lack of good parenting and the kids are substiting the internet and social media for that descrepancy.

    • Phillb says:

      11:36am | 30/07/12

      This ^.  I am not a small bloke by any means, I watch violent movies and play violent computer games and yet feel absolutely no desire to go and and get in fights.

    • Katie says:

      01:36pm | 29/07/12

      Why on earth do these people see hitting others as a reasonable thing to do in the first place? Children I see on the streets these days - wow, feel old, I’m only in my 20s! - seem far worse behaved than I remember as a child… is it because they can get away with it, because parents are so time poor? Is it because teachers hold no real authority anymore? I don’t know.

      What I am concerned about, however, is people who keep blaming the media and videogames for all this violence. As a game player myself, I can say that shooting zombies in the head has never, ever prompted me to feel it’s ok to hit someone in real life. Neither has watching a movie; I saw Batman the other week and, nope, still not feeling any urge to kill anyone.

      I am, however, a well balanced adult. The fact that children seem to have unfetted access to violent shows and games actually does concern me. Movies have ratings. Video games have ratings. Why on earth are 8 year olds playing games where they can murder each other and abuse each other online? Why have the parents given something to their child which is clearly marked 18+?

      There was a family who brought 2 children under 10 out of the Batman showing I was at. That movie was M… those kids shouldn’t have been seeing it at all.

      Therefore, I would argue it’s not the violent games or movies themselves that are the issue, but the fact that children so young are being saturated in them. Desensitisation at that early an age can’t be good… by the time you’re actually old enough to legally play/watch the violence, you should be well adjusted enough to know you can’t do those things in real life.

      TLDR; We need better parenting/teaching to encourage children to develop self control, and to prevent them taking part in media that’s too adult for them.

    • Gregg says:

      03:49pm | 29/07/12

      ”  The only way this behaviour can ever be challenged is if good blokes speak up and intervene when they see their mates acting in a violent fashion. “

      That might be something to have some effect Penbo but I’d not hold my breath for have you not heard of ” birds of a feather flock together ” and that is likely too true for violent types and in a violent situation somehow I doubt that there’ll be too many mates that are good blokes or any sort of blokes willing to speak up.
      Mates of that ilk will also likely turn on oneanother too.

    • Alec says:

      04:00pm | 29/07/12

      I’ll never try to stop a fight again….ended up with a 4” deep gut stab and 19 stitches in my arm, + 5 days in hospital ...nobody knew the joker had a carving knife hidden on him. His lawyer said I jumped him, but an elderly couple from a flat saw it all..the judge near ‘kissed’  the stabber, he got 100hrs community service…I lost all my clothes + 6 weeks off work., the crock of a judge said I needed no compensation!!! ...even the police were stunned by his judgement and gave me $1500 for clothes and shoes.

    • BRIAN says:

      04:59pm | 29/07/12


      I got knocked out friday morning by a guy I didnt see.

      I left a bar and saw the 3 (in my pereferal vision) come down the stairs after I left.
      I must have turned and got smacked square in the nose/ mouth, went down and recall one of them ( the smaller of the 3) laughing before I passed out.

      Yes I was drunk and alone as but nothing was said between us.

      These guys were late 20’s or early 30’s and not small - I recall the one who hit me was bigger than me (and im 6ft and 42 but thin) although I am trained in martial arts, I havnt been in a fight on the streets since I was 16 in NZ when I was provoked.
      If this was a “common lets have a go” fight - these guys would have been mince.

      A “king hit” term is not the right approach - this is cowardance at its highest form.

      Chicken shits!

    • ByStealth says:

      03:32pm | 30/07/12

      People usually don’t start fights unless they know they can win. The majority will sucker punch to start the fight (which is why there are so many one hit fights. The other guy had no chance to get his guard up). Also people usually only start fights when their mates are around and they have the numbers.

      Time and again I’ve seen fights started by those with the numerical advantage. You’re right, they are chicken shits. Wouldn’t want to get tapped back now would we? Weak.

    • Maryjane says:

      06:21pm | 29/07/12

      What a good idea Brian.  Let’s all; media, police, court officials and the public call it by it’s true name from now on.  ‘The perpetrater used a coward’s punch to knock his victim down’.  A bully would hate that.

    • BJ says:

      06:39pm | 29/07/12

      Fighting has always been a part of life. Ditto young blokes doing stupid things. We need to bring back the concept of the fair fight. Previous generations would have never accepted the rate of king hits and glassings that go on these days.

    • acotrel says:

      06:04am | 30/07/12

      In Melbourne in the old days, it wasn’t so easy to disappear - we weren’t so mobile, and there weren’t so many options for a night out. But you could still get bashed by somebody trying to prove their manhood. We has a few street gands around, but the individual king hit didn’t happen often.  I don’t think many people knew how devastating that can be - the movies have shown them that.
      Another aspect is the effect of do-gooders on motor sport.  In the old days we used to hot up cars and motorcycles, and Calder Raceway held a couple ofrace meetings a month.  These days if the kids hold street drags we have people running around yelling that they could be killed.  Nobody has ever been killed at a street drag in Melbourne.  The point is that motor sport is a healthy outlet for aggression.  There are no options for that these days other than to bash someone.

    • M says:

      07:52am | 30/07/12

      When was the last time you were in a pub fight? There’s no such thing as honour when you’re full of piss and your life may be at stake.

    • Borderer says:

      12:11pm | 30/07/12

      Pub fights aren’t generally fair, weapons (bottles and glasses) are too often used. I still remember laughing in the face of a guy who broke a pint glass to stab someone and only suceeded in cutting his own had open to the bone. We were applying first aid and ragging on him…. “
      “Yeah buddy, that showed him…. tool…. ”

    • Utopia Boy says:

      10:24pm | 29/07/12

      It’s not something that’s going to change with a campaign from a media organisation with as much street cred as Daryl Somers.
      It was mentioned above - where does all the rage come from? It comes from being baby sat by an X Box and not getting out and expending energy. Everyone who exercises regularly knows they feel better (and calmer) for it. Unfortunately we don’t live in a physical world anymore. Except when drunk / stoned / pinging off our dials…...

    • M says:

      08:33am | 30/07/12

      Really? Cause I’ve played violent video games since I was around 10 and I’ve not made a habit of assaulting people.

    • Phillb says:

      11:51am | 30/07/12

      God I hate hearing things like
      “Everyone who exercises regularly knows they feel better (and calmer) for it.”
      I used to exercise reguarly, life changed and I no longer play all the sport I used to.  I feel no different, no more or less energy, no calmer or angrier.  I hate everyone saying you should exercide more, it always makes you feel good.  No, it makes YOU feel good.  I don’t tell you to sit down and read a book because it will make you feel better so don’t tell me what makes me feel better.

    • Borderer says:

      12:17pm | 30/07/12

      Yep, playing monopoly is linked to the subprime mortgage problem that caused the GFC. Apparently being able to mortgage Old Kent Road is the issue so future editions will be changed in the interest of more stable global economics…..  Or its a load of crap cop out like linking violent video games or like watching Harry Potter makes you a satanist… bitch, please…

    • Craig says:

      05:58am | 30/07/12

      Given that News Ltd profits from the outcomes of crime, through presenting them as sensational stories, it is a bit ludicrous and hypocritical for them to go on an anti-binge drinking spiel.

      The key demographic, young males, don’t even read newspapers.

      This is a transparent puff campaign designed to stimulate anger amidst the largest newspaper reading demographic - 50+ men.

      Great for shoring up their remaining readers, but unlikely to have any impact on the issue (which is in decline anyway, and largely a media beat-up aimed at making people outraged).

    • jay says:

      08:08am | 30/07/12

      Walk away? As soon as you turn your back on these dogs that is when they strike.Isn’t it amazing how alcohol is always blamed and yet the increase in ice and other synthesized drugs are always glossed over.When are we going to get serious and start jailing people for acts of serious violence.

    • Ridge says:

      05:32pm | 30/07/12

      The powers-that-be will always take the easy route out.  Whether it fixes the problem or not, they’re seen to be doing something.

      Tackling a broken society is hard, but outlawing specific things is much easier.  So it’s obvious as to what they target.

    • M says:

      09:01am | 30/07/12

      I love how everyone thinks that this campaign will have any effect at all. Do you really think that roid affected persons of a certain appearence (as they keep being described in the media and police reports) are going to care about this at all?

      Get a clue.

    • Tim the Toolman says:

      09:56am | 30/07/12

      “The only thing young blokes really care about is what their mates think of them. “

      Urghh….the guys who do this, by the time they’re out in pubs etc…have already found like-minded individuals to hang around with.  They’re not sitting around discussing philosophy with their friends one minute and out beating the crap out of someone the next (to the shock of their friends sipping lattes).  They’ve found their niche.  Their mates are more likely to be the ones cheering it on/lending an extra boot than decrying their behaviour.

    • Bill says:

      01:45pm | 30/07/12

      @Tim the Toolman raises a very valid point here, unfortunately. Violence is pretty much already stigmatised in decent people. Stigmatising it to more uncivilised types is a huge challenge indeed.

    • Smashmellows says:

      02:20pm | 30/07/12

      King Hit causes death = mandatory 25years in jail, no excuses.  After the first couple are sent down that will focus the attention of the areseholes that do this stuff.


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