Workplace Bullying

Reporter: Clare Brady

Now bullies risk being exposed -- from tomorrow, new workplace officers will be deployed as 'bully police'.

They will be empowered to investigate the hidden horrors workers, too often, endure in silence. "Bullying in any form will not be tolerated and all of us have a responsibility to speak out, report it if you know someone's being treated in an unacceptable manner", said Victoria's Minister for Workcover, Tim Holding.

Workplace bullying is the silent epidemic that now has the saddest of voices as its champion of change. "The 19 year old jumped off a multi-storey car park in Hawthorn after more than a year of abuse. The court heard Nicholas Smallwood, Rhys MacAlpine and Gabriel Toomey called her names, criticised her clothing and poured fish sauce over her", it was reported.

And even after an earlier suicide attempt, they continued to taunt her -- that she couldn't even kill herself properly. She didn't utter a word at the time, but since Brodie Panlock took her own life after being mercilessly bullied by the men, other victims are drawing strength to speak out.

In fact a help line centre at Worksafe is now receiving more than 30 calls a day from bullied workers. They're calling for advice since Brodie's ordeal came to light -- each call is a cry for help now knowing what can happen if bullying goes too far. Many are asking why Brodie's bullies aren't behind bars and a Facebook page is even campaigning for tougher laws. "Extreme cases like this they should definitely be looking at jail time", said Julie Wallace.

After hearing about Broadie Panlock's case, Julie launched a Facebook site dedicated to changing current laws regarding bullies. This afternoon it counted just under 6,000 supporters. "The group wants the legislation changed. We want clear cut ways to deal with it and I'm not surprised people are outraged and people have joined -- they want something to happen, they want a change", Julie said.

Today, Tim Holding was desperate to clear up any confusion. There are current provisions for a criminal conviction for bullying and jail terms. But in Brodie's case, Worksafe lawyers chose a different tact to ensure her bullies didn't get off on a technicality. "If they'd gone for the toughest penalty, there would have e been real danger these men could have got off. That would have infuriated everyone and if would have sent a terrible message."

The irony is, such a quiet girl who endured too much at the hands of her cafe worker colleagues, is now forcing other bullies and their bosses to take note, that turning a blind eye won't be tolerated. The owner of Cafe Vamp -- where Brodie's life became a living hell -- was fined along with three of his staff. He recently sold the business, moving on, a fresh start -- something Brodie's family will never be able to do.

But speaking out can be tough -- We'll call this worker 'Anna', not her real name -- she wants to speak out but is too scared of workplace reprisals to show her face. "Something like that shakes your confidence and self-esteem, just makes you feel unworthy. I've been seeing a psychologist since all that happened, been really unwell as a result of abuse and I don't know why I've been targeted", Anna said. Worksafe's solicitor, Con Lilos, covered Brodie's case. "This case, if it does one thing, it will hopefully send a message that we need to do something about it as a community", he said. Sadly, nothing will change what happened to young Brodie Panlock.