Victoria announces work bullying blitz

More than 40,000 Victorian workplaces will be subject to a blitz on workplace bullying following the suicide death of cafe worker Brodie Panlock.

Announcing the Respect At Work initiative, Premier John Brumby told the Herald Sun newspaper workplace bullying was “cowardly” and “low”.

Under the initiative, WorkSafe inspectors will conduct snap inspections on workplaces, lift awareness of bullying with training, and interview employees.

Three of Ms Panlock’s workmates and the owner of Cafe Vamp in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn were convicted and fined a total of $335,000 on Monday following her death in September 2006.

Ms Panlock threw herself from the fourth floor of a car park in Hawthorn after enduring physical and mental bullying at the cafe where she had worked for 16 months. She died three days later in hospital from her injuries.

Ms Panlock’s father, Damien, said outside the court the law should be changed to include a custodial sentence.

“Change the law,” he told reporters.

Ms Panlock’s former workmates – Nicholas Smallwood, 26, now of Queensland, Rhys MacAlpine, 28, of Kooyong, and Gabriel Toomey, 23, of Melbourne – all pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court to failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety¬†
of persons.

Cafe owner Marc Luis Da Cruz and his one-man company, MAP Foundation pleaded guilty to two charges, including failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment.

All four men were convicted on the charges, with magistrate Peter Lauritsen on Monday describing their actions as “the most serious case of bullying” and saying he would have doubled the penalties if they had not pleaded guilty to the charges.

MAP Foundation was fined $110,000 each on its two charges, while Da Cruz was fined $15,000 each for two similar charges.

Smallwood was fined $45,000, MacAlpine $30,000 and Toomey $10,000.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or SANE Helpline on