A Centrelink employee who was stabbed by a customer plans to take legal action against the welfare agency for failing to protect her.
Joeanne Cassar, 55, was on duty on Melbourne’s Airport West Centrelink on Tuesday when a man allegedly stabbed her in the lower back – narrowly missing her kidneys.
Alleged attacker Elijah Chase, 34, had previously been banned from the Centrelink office following another alleged attack on a female member of staff.
Ms Cassar’s husband, Andrew Giusti, said the welfare agency needs to tighten its security measures at its Australian facilities.
Joeanne Cassar (pictured), 55, was on duty on Melbourne’s Airport West Centrelink on Tuesday when a man allegedly stabbed her in the lower back – narrowly missing her kidneys
Her husband Andrew Giusti said his wife allegedly saw the knife in Chase’s hand before the man allegedly assaulted her (pictured, police at the scene on Tuesday)
“Centrelink employees are in danger every day. If we do nothing to change the current process, a worker could be killed,” Giusti told the Announce sun.
“If access had been controlled, he wouldn’t have been able to enter the building and she might not have been stabbed.
“We will try to file a legal claim and see what options and compensation there are.”
The couple’s attorney, Allanah Goodwin of Arnold Thomas and Becker, said the incident exposed the vulnerabilities and risks faced by frontline workers on a daily basis.
She added that the policy failure of Services Australia, which provides social services such as Centrelink, resulted in Ms Cassar’s horror attack.
Mr Giusti said his wife reportedly saw the knife in Chase’s hand before the man allegedly attacked her.
She had tried to deny him entry, but other staff members had let him in, he claimed.
Victoria Police Commissioner Graham Ashton (pictured) said he will lead an urgent review of service center security following the brutal stabbing
Mr Giusti said the welfare agency needs to tighten up its security measures at its Australian facilities (pictured, the Centrelink in Melbourne’s Airport West)
A source told Daily Mail Australia Ms Cassar asked Chase to leave the welfare office on Tuesday morning before returning at around 1.30pm.
The person, who asked not to be identified, claimed Ms. Cassar was allegedly stabbed immediately after Chase returned.
Ms Cassar was taken to Royal Melbourne Hospital in critical condition but was stable on Wednesday – although feeling ‘tired’ and ‘tired’.
Mr Giusti said his wife spoke, took painkillers and was back on her feet since the alleged incident.
It comes after former Victoria Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said he will lead an urgent overhaul of the service center’s security following the brutal stabbing.
Public Services Minister Bill Shorten said Mr Ashton and his team will look into what could be done better to prevent and deter future incidents.
This review will be carried out as a matter of priority. The impact of this terrible incident on the staff is obvious. Some were too sad to go back to work today,” Shorten told Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.
“I think it is important, and I said this briefly to the shadow minister, that this parliament shows its support for all our officials, especially the person who was assaulted yesterday.”
Meanwhile, indictment forms show Chase was let loose on the community following another alleged rampage at a JobFind Center in Geelong, south of Melbourne.
Police charged Chase with multiple assault charges during the December 17, 2020 incident, including recklessly causing injury.
The documents show that Chase has been charged with allegedly assaulting two men, one of whom is believed to be an employee.
The employee is believed to have suffered a broken collarbone in the alleged attack.
Chase, from Essendon, has been charged in the latest incident with causing serious injury with intent, recklessly causing serious injury, reckless endangering of life, common law assault and use and possession of controlled weapon.
The court heard that Chase needed full psychiatric evaluation when he was taken to jail.
A lawyer acting as a “friend of the court” said Chase had refused to speak to Victorian legal aid lawyers and was “delusional.”
“I didn’t feel like talking then,” Chase said from the prison dock in court.
Chase had expressed interest in filing a “personal” bail application himself, but changed his mind after talking to the attorney.
He will appear in court next week for multiple violations.
A Services Australia employee said that despite the recent breach, there was no additional security at the Centrelink branch which reopened on Wednesday.
Hank Jongen, managing director of Services Australia, said workers should be free to do their jobs without compromising personal safety.
He added that Tuesday was a very sad day for the organization and said the immediate priority is to support all employees affected by the incident.
Anyone who witnessed the incident or has information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers.