Top class speakers share anti-violence message in schools

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John Linn - Scots Guards soldier, profile shot
Pat Cronin Foundation presenter, John Linn

As a former soldier in the world-famous Scots Guards (pictured below) at Edinburgh Castle, John Linn is uniquely placed when it comes to real-life strategies for defusing potentially violent situations.

John is one of seven presenters of the Pat Cronin Foundation’s widely respected Be Wise educational sessions, which will reach as many as 60,000 young Victorians by 2022.

Through a combination of compelling storytelling and engaging personalities, the powerful hour-long presentations are a crucial component of our mission to end the “coward punch”.

John Linn - Scots Guards soldier
Scots Guards soldiers

The sessions help school students and club or community members of all ages explore the important links between emotions and actions and developing strategies to deal with anger, aggression and conflict.

John (pictured above, second from the right) was only 16 when he left home to join the Guards – as equally famous for their training and discipline as their bearskins and distinctive tunics – with only a few commissions awarded each year.

With a military career spanning more than 11 years and taking him from Northern Ireland to Canada, America and Belize, followed by security and risk management in the private sector, John has been a valuable addition to our team in 2021.

Another of our presenters, Ben O’Toole, brings another highly relatable perspective as the survivor of a coward punch to the head from a stranger in 2007.

The incident followed an argument he had with two men while awaiting transport home after night-time birthday celebrations in Geelong.

Ben OToole – Pat Cronin Foundation Presenter
Pat Cronin Foundation presenter, Ben O’Toole

That attack became life-changing.

Airlifted to the Alfred Hospital for specialist surgery and advised by doctors that his survival marked him as one of the “lucky ones”, Ben began sharing his story to help others avoid what he experienced.   

Ben was the first presenter to join the foundation in 2019 and has delivered more than 400 sessions  to over 35,000 young people.

The foundation also has a suite of casual presenters – each with a connection to Pat or the Cronin family. They are: Steve O’Malley, Peter Treseder, Patrick Turnbull, Nick Eggleton and Hayden Bowkett.  

Mission to reach 200 schools in 2021

Supported by a $150,000 Victorian Government grant, we’re now well on track to reach our goal of delivering 200 presentations to government and non-government schools this year.

The sessions have been designed to fit neatly into the education curriculum.

A key aspect of what we do is engage fully with the students,” says John. “We take them on a journey – from relating personal experiences to talking about the effects of violence – which makes the sessions very powerful.”

Pat Cronin Foundation directors Robyn and Matt Cronin
Pat Cronin Foundation directors, Robyn and Matt Cronin

Each presentation highlights how a single punch can alter lives irrevocably and tragically. This documentary video, which is shown at all of the sessions, chronicles the struggle of the Cronin family and friends in coming to terms with Pat’s death.

Poignantly, his parents Matt and Robyn (pictured above), reveal their ever-present sense of devastation as well as the moments and hours leading up to the awful news that doctors were unable to save their son – struck from behind while coming to the assistance of a mate on a night out in 2016.

“It’s something we all live with every day and as a parent you never quite come to terms with,’’ says Matt. “We feel that no other family should face the devastation of losing a son in such a senseless way.’’

Equipping kids with the tools to avoid violence

“One of the questions that students commonly ask is how to respond to a situation when they are being provoked,” says John.

“The answer is always that provocation is not an excuse for violence, and we offer a range of very specific strategies to de-escalate the situation.”

Ben says many of the students he speaks to are “shocked and surprised” about how fragile life can be.

“Pretty much everyone knows that they can get into trouble for being involved in a fight. What we try to emphasise however is not so much that aspect, but the potential long-term outcomes for the victim, their families as well as the one who throws the punch.

“When I was punched I immediately fell to ground, which knocked me unconscious. Fortunately the two people I was standing alongside sought immediate medical assistance, saving my life.”

“If I didn’t lapse into unconsciousness, I probably would have gone home to bed to sleep and never woken up due to my brain haemorrhaging. This is what happens in a surprising number of cases.”

The Pat Cronin Foundation is dedicated to empowering young people never to use violence, to be wise, think carefully and act kindly. For more tips, book one of our informative educational sessions specially designed for schools, sports clubs and community organisations. Register here or contact us.

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December 18, 2023
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