Pat Cronin Foundation supporters form the words Be Wise at the start of the Be Wise Walk at Heidelberg Cricket Club's ground at Warringal Park. Image by Blueprint Studios
Meeting Matt Cronin for a café conversation felt like being in the presence of a warm, positive and community minded individual growing an already successful mission. Matt, with his foundation, is an embodiment of community outreach. (See patcroninfoundation.org.au).
Matt’s son, Pat Cronin was a 19 year old killed by a single punch delivered from behind while Pat was attempting to extract a friend from a brawl outside what was the Windy Mile pub in Diamond Creek in 2016. Pat did not contribute to any of the violence.
Matt said: “Dealing with the loss of a child doesn’t get easier over time. As a family however, we’ve learnt to move forward rather than move on. I think people sense that if it could happen to Pat, then it could happen to anyone”, and so Matt and Robyn Cronin set up the Pat Cronin Foundation in honour of their son.
On Sunday, 19 November at 10am around 2,000 Diamond Valley residents will take part in the Foundation’s eighth annual Be Wise Walk from Heidelberg to Montmorency.
Robyn said: “All funds raised will go towards violence-prevention education and programs for young people across Australia”.
“Registrations will be open right up to the morning of the Walk and we’re encouraging everyone to come and enjoy a great family day out. Pets are also welcome”.
Setting off from Banyule Cricket Club (50 Beverley Rd, Heidelberg), walkers will follow 8.4km of scenic trails along the Plenty and Yarra rivers. They will also rub shoulders with an array of high-profile Melbourne sports and media personalities who’ve pledged their support.
Everyone is then encouraged to kick on after the walk with food, drinks, live music and kids’ entertainment on offer until 3pm at Lower Plenty Football Ground (80 Park Lane, Montmorency).
This year the Foundation has expanded the reach of its educational presentations into every state and territory of Australia – now connecting with around 70,000 young people in schools and sports clubs each year.
The presentations, part of a Prep – Year 12 Violence Prevention program, will give them an understanding of Pat’s story, raise awareness of the impact of social violence and provide the skills to handle anger and aggression.
Matt said: “In addition to the well-documented disruptive schoolyard behaviour schools have experienced in the wake of COVID lockdowns, teachers are also telling us that students are engaging in organised violence in search of ‘likes’ on social media”.
“It’s why there is so much demand for specialist education in this area and why the work of the Foundation is so important.
“Our own data – based on surveys of more than 10,000 students – show that 32 percent of students nationwide believe that fighting can be a way to have fun. Prior to our presentations for instance, 44 percent of male students agree that most people respect others who use physical force. After the presentation that figure drops to 28.4 per cent.
“The old saying about it taking a village to raise a child certainly rings true when it comes to changing outdated attitudes to social violence, and we know that we’re playing a part ….”
According to Matt, the Be Wise Walk has always been a showcase of local community spirit.
“Staging the Walk is a huge undertaking, with around 100 volunteers bringing it together every year”.
We finished our chat: firstly on the subject of formal research aimed at insights into violence in social settings, and Matt is onto it via discussions with John Brumby AO, Chancellor of La Trobe University; and secondly his beloved Richmond Football Club – no wonder “former great Matthew Richardson” is on the walk too.
The 2023 Be Wise Walk is supported by the Foundation’s major corporate partners – Barry Plant Real Estate, Le Pine Funerals and YVE. To register or to find out more, visit bewisewalk.com.au/