Former Victoria Police Commissioner Graham Ashton will lead an urgent overhaul of service center security following a brutal stabbing at a Melbourne Centrelink.
Joeanne Cassar, 55, is in stable condition after allegedly being stabbed in the back by Elijah Chase, 34,
On Wednesday, Chase stood before Melbourne Magistrates’ Court where it was revealed he was wanted under multiple arrest warrants and for breaching a community correction order.
Joeanne Cassar, 55, had tried to keep her attacker out of the Centrelink building
Police swarmed the Centrelink in Airport West, Melbourne, on Tuesday
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.”
A source told the Daily Mail Australia that Ms Cassar had asked Chase to leave the welfare office on Louis Street in Airport West in Melbourne’s northwest that morning before returning with a knife at around 1.30pm.
Chase had previously been banned from the Centrelink office following another alleged attack on a female member of staff.
Charge forms reveal that 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.
Joeanne Cassar was brutally stabbed while at work
Joeanne Cassar, 55, was stabbed while working at Centrelink in Airport West
Victorian police rushed to Centrelink Airport West after Ms Cassar was stabbed inside on Tuesday
Chase, from Essendon, has been charged with the latest incident of causing serious injury with intent, recklessly causing serious injury, reckless endangering 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.
Mr Shorten said he traveled to Melbourne on Wednesday morning to visit the Airport West service centre.
“I met many wonderful but traumatized colleagues who were there yesterday and others who were there today to support their colleagues,” he said.
“I know that Parliament joins me in being shocked by this incident. We send our thoughts to the injured member of staff, her family and the staff and customers who witnessed this attack.”
Former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton will lead the review
A 34-year-old man from Essendon has been arrested and is assisting police in their investigation into Tuesday’s horrific stabbing
His visit came as Daily Mail Australia reported that staff at Airport West Centrelink remained terrified.
“Everyone is just so scared and really don’t know what to do about it,” a source within Centrelink told the Daily Mail Australia.
The incident flared up again and calls for better protection for Centrelink staff.
Protective screens, similar to those in banks, were removed years ago to make staff appear “more approachable.”
A former Centrelink employee, who declined to be named, said staff are now protected by a ‘panic button’.
“I saw someone rip a computer off his desk and throw it at his head once,” the ex-employee said.
“And the amount of angry people leaning over us and yelling in our faces because we wouldn’t give them an emergency payment was ridiculous and dangerous. But they wanted us to look nicer.’
The ex-employee claimed that Centrelink staff were reluctant to even push the panic buttons when threatened.
“No one uses them because the abuse is so widespread that they would click the button every day if they did it for every incident,” the former employee said.
“One day I was working next to a co-worker who was so scared of an abusive customer that she couldn’t even find the button she was vibrating so badly.”