A bus ride to peril and beyond

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Tim Smits was stabbed twice after defending vulnerable passengers on a bus in London in 2011. Photograph: Eddie Jim

There was a great response to my story about Good Samaritan Tim Smits, a Melburnian who stood up to public violence on a bus in London and was beaten and stabbed as a result. The story appeared on the cover of the Insight section of the Age and looked at the wider issue of standing up to public violence. Read it in full here.

Nearly three years on Tim has forgiven his attackers and is campaigning to divert young at-risk people from entering into the cycle of violence. In the UK he has been working groups including Art Against Knives and has spoken to schoolchildren and young people about his experience in the hope he can make a change.

In Australia, there are a number of organisations doing similar, inspiring work. Les Twentyman’s 20th Man Foundation is taking up the battle for ‘at risk youth’ and the late Jim Steins’ The Reach Foundation does important work with school children who have lost their way.

Anne Hooker runs runs Doin’ Time, a small business program for 18-25-year-old offenders in Port Phillip Prison’s maximum security division. The inmates work on projects such as “Stories From the Inside,” a cautionary DVD aimed at school children. Proceeds go to charities including the Royal Children’s Hospital, Kids Under Cover and White Lion, which helps young people coming out of the juvenile justice system find work.

Hooker says the key is to enable young people to care about their community, friends, family and victims – to make them understand they are valued and important. “Young people offend because they don’t care. These programs challenge that view and show that we do.”

Finally, there were some fascinating comments about the dangers of personal violence and their often long-lasting psychological effects on victims thanks to Dr Alexander McFarlane, director of the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies at the University of Adelaide. Read more about that organisation here.

Above all, let’s be careful out there, folks.