The parents of a teenage boy who killed himself after being bullied on the internet say a ruling on compensation restores dignity to their son’s memory.
Seventeen-year-old Allem Halkic received threatening text messages for several months before committing suicide.
Last month a Victorian magistrate ruled that his suicide was the result of bullying.
The perpetrator pleaded guilty to stalking charges and has been ordered to do community service.
And the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal has now ruled that Allem Halkic’s death was the result of an act of violence.
Allem’s father Ali Halkic says the most important thing is removing the stigma attached to suicides like his son’s.
“We have to understand that there are so many people out there – you’ve got children who are raped and abused, spouses who are abused by their partners,” he said.
“Unfortunately when these people take their lives, these cowards who do these things to these people walk away, because in people’s minds, they had a choice and they didn’t have to do it.”
Allem’s mother Dina Halkic says she had no idea what was happening to her son on the internet.
“I thought the internet was your friend. And you go on there and I’m sure it is. We’re not condemning the internet. But we had no idea. Nor did Allem show us any signs whatsoever,” she said.
“But what I did notice, and if I play it back, the last 24 hours is, we were downstairs and I could hear his typing. He was like typing so loud, like really like anger typing.
“And I thought, I wonder what he’s doing up there. I thought he was playing a game, like a game on the computer. And it all came to me that he was trying to – poor thing – defend himself.”
Lawyer Julia Schembri says the victim of crime application was not about compensation but acknowledgment that Allem Halkic was victimised.
“This line of compensation is available for people that have been directly involved in an act of violence,” she said.
“A related victim application is normally made by the family members left behind after a death associated with an act of violence.
“It’s not at all about the money. It’s about a recognition of Allem passing as a direct result of an act of violence rather than death by his own hand, which I think his parents would agree that was the sole reason for making this application.”
Allem Halkic received over 300 text messages, one of which read: “I’m going to hit you. And trust me, the boys at your school who you think you’re so cool with … hate you. Don’t be surprised if you get hit sometime soon.”
The bully, Shane Gerada, pleaded guilty to stalking charges last year and was sentenced to an 18-month community-based order.
After Allem’s death, Gerada was interviewed in a Four Corners program about cyber-bullying.
He admitted that he wanted revenge but disagreed that he was a bully.
“No. Allem is the type, like, I always kept him out of trouble,” Gerada said.
He agreed that sending threatening messages was bullying behaviour, but defended his actions.
“Well doesn’t everybody? I’m sure when you were young you argued too. I’m sure you sent abusive messages,” he said.
The parents of Brodie Panlock have welcomed the Halkic finding.
Nineteen-year-old Brodie killed herself in 2006 after suffering relentless bullying in the cafe where she worked.
“I think it’s great they’ve got some sort of feeling that something’s being done in recognition of their son,” Brodie’s father Damien Panlock said.
“I speak to them quite often and I know they’re in pain. It’s more recent for them and being their only son it’s probably a lot harder too.”
Tougher penalties for workplace and cyber bullies are likely to be passed in Victoria’s State Parliament on Tuesday. They will be known as Brodie’s Law.