Cole Miller And Trevor Duroux: Some One-Punch Deaths Are Good For Media Business, Some Not-So-Much

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An Aboriginal man died in a one-punch assault in Queensland one month ago. So, you know, who cares?

You can’t watch the video of Cole Miller’s father addressing media yesterday over the death of his young son on Monday morning without being deeply moved. It’s gut-wrenching.

But if you work in the media, you can seek to exploit it in the interests of boosting readership, while completely ignoring other deaths as a result of one-punch attacks. Even a death that occurred in the same state, in eerily similar circumstances, just one month earlier.

Cole Miller, 18, was allegedly punched in the head in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley on Sunday night, after allegedly being targeted randomly by a group of young men. He died in the early hours of Monday morning, surrounded by family and friends.

Armstrong Renata, 21, from Coombabah, but originally from New Zealand, is one of the men charged over the death.

A month earlier, Trevor Duroux, aged 40, also died in a one-punch attack on the nearby Gold Coast in the early hours of the morning. Like Miller, he was allegedly attacked by a young man, Tristan Heather, who had also recently arrived in Australia from New Zealand.

Apart from their age, there’s one major difference between Trevor Duroux and Cole Miller – Duroux was an Aboriginal man. Which might help explain the ensuing media coverage over his slaying, or rather lack thereof.

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The Gold Coast Bulletin, to their great credit, covered the Duroux death extensively, with sensitive interviews with the family and strong, empathetic reporting. ‘The Bully’ has also provided extensive – and sensitive – coverage of the death of Cole Miller.

Fairfax has also widely reported the death of Cole Miller – by Monday evening, brisbanetimes.com.au had managed to file 10 stories on Mr Miller in a single day, with the issue occupying the top three positions on the brisbanetimes.com.au website.

Brisbane-Times-cole-miller

But in the month since Mr Duroux was allegedly assaulted, died (after two weeks fighting for his life in hospital) and his alleged killer was charged by police and appeared twice in court, how many stories has does a search of the Fairfax database reveal were filed on a similarly tragic death?

Zero.

But this morning, Fairfax was still running hot with the Miller death story – it currently occupies the two top spots, and there’s doubtless more campaigning to come, like this story about boxer Danny green calling for tougher penalties for one-punch assaults.

Fairfax have done this before. Indeed, at this exact time two years ago, during a period that is traditionally very unprofitable for the media industry – late December through early January, when readers go on holidays and avoid news websites.

The only way to combat that is to squeeze every drop out of every story, hence why Fairfax (along with News Corporation) launched an extraordinary campaign in January 2014 to force then NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell to introduce lock-out laws in NSW, after 18-year-old Daniel Christie was killed in a one-punch attack in Kings Cross on New Years Eve.

After three weeks of, literally, non-stop front pages on the Sydney Morning Herald (and Daily Telegraph), O’Farrell finally relented, and introduced tough new laws to shut down night-life early in Sydney ‘trouble spots’.

Remarkably though, when it came time for the NSW Government to draw the lock-out lines on a map, the new boundaries managed to skirt around one small section of the Sydney CBD, which happened to coincide perfectly with the under-construction Barangaroo casino and entertainment precinct being built by billionaire James Packer. Oh, and Star City Casino escaped the lock-out boundaries as well.

Lock-out-laws-map
The map of the Sydney lock-out zones. The areas in red are exempt… that’s Barangaroo (under construction) and Star City Casino.

Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD proper weren’t so lucky – their licensed venues were decimated, and with them hundreds of jobs.

Fairfax and News’ campaigning included extensive support for the Thomas Kelly Foundation, a small (and worthwhile) organisation set-up to help young people get home from nightspots safely. It was named in honour of another young man killed in a one-punch assault in 2012.

The corporate supporters of the Thomas Kelly Foundation include… you guessed it, Star City Casino and James Packer. Arguably the two biggest beneficiaries of the Sydney lock-out laws.

Alas, Fairfax (and News Limited) won’t be able to exploit the death of Cole Miller quite so effectively. As the brisbanetimes.com.au reported yesterday, the Queensland Government has already announced it’s committed to legislation to “quell” one-punch assaults, by shutting licensed venues down early.

“Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said the state Labor government was “absolutely committed” to its anti-violence legislation in the wake of the one-punch killing of [Cole Miller],” reported the Brisbane Times.

“That legislation would include last drinks at 2am across the state and 1am lock-outs for venues that had successfully applied for 3am last drinks.”

Looks like the media will have to find another literal beat-up to exploit.

The multi-million dollar question, of course, is do lock-out laws prevent one-punch attacks and make people safer? That’s an area of statistics Fairfax and News Corporation have been less motivated to report.

New Matilda is working on a feature at the moment, and we’ll get it to you as soon as we can. But by way of early indications, last year, alcohol-related assaults in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross did, indeed, drop. But not as dramatically as they did in regional NSW, an area clearly unaffected by the lock-out laws brought to you by Fairfax and News.

In the meantime, RIP Cole Miller and Trevor Duroux, the facts around which, it’s worth noting, include one final insult to add to his fatal injury.

Trevor Duroux’s extended family hails from Bowraville on the NSW mid-north coast.

Bowraville, New Matilda readers will recall, is where three Aboriginal children were murdered in separate incidents over a six month period in the early 1990s.

Those killings – which included the death of Clinton Speedy Duroux, 16, along with Evelyn Greenup, 4, and Colleen Walker Craig, 16 – were ignored by police and media. Instead, child protection officers were sent in to investigate the community under suspicion of child abuse.

It later transpired all three children had been killed by, police now believe, a local white man. The community has been fighting ever since to get new laws passed to prosecute a serial killer, who continues to live freely in NSW.

Needless to say, the families of Bowraville have had far less success in their campaigning than Fairfax.

* A follow-up to this blog post has been published here, and puts to rest the ridiculous claims that the coverage around Cole Miller – and indifference to Mr Duroux – was related to the ages of the deceased.

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Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. Chris has won a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards for his reporting. He lives in Brisbane and splits his time between Stradbroke Island, where New Matilda is based, and the mainland.

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