An unemployment activist has blamed a Centrelink staffer for being stabbed by a disgruntled customer, because she was the person in “power”.
Joeanne Cassar, 55, was rushed to Royal Melbourne Hospital with “life-threatening injuries” on Tuesday, after she was allegedly stabbed multiple times at the Airport West branch in Melbourne’s north.
Police arrested and charged 34-year-old Elijah Chase with the attack, which allegedly occurred after he was told to leave the branch around 1.30pm.
The Centrelink office in Melbourne’s Airport West where a worker was stabbed. Picture: Nine News
The attack prompted a safety review of Centrelink offices across the country.
And yet as Ms Cassar fights for her life in hospital, anti-Centrelink activist Phoebe Autumn took to social media to comment on the attack and seemingly blame the worker for her injuries.
In a reply to another tweet, the Western Australian woman – who supports the Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU) – said Ms Cassar “had all the power” until a knife “was brought into the equation”.
This is @AlboMP’s preferred welfare system, he’s had a whole year to change it. The Centrelink officer had all the power in that situation until a weapon was brought into the equation.
— Phoebe (she/her) (@desvenlafaxines) May 23, 2023
Ms Autumn, a self-described “professional agitator” tweeted in response to another user who wrote, sarcastically, “how unexpected” the attack was
“Oh well I’m sure this will prove an isolated incident,” the user wrote.
Ms Autumn replied: “This is Anthony Albanese’s preferred welfare system. He’s had a whole year to change it.
“The Centrelink officer had all the power in that situation until a weapon was brought into the equation.”
Another user rejected Ms Autumn’s scapegoating criticism of the worker, writing staff were “pretty low on my list of people to blame – if at all”.
Paige Autumn blamed the Centrelink worker for her own stabbing attack.
Fellow AUWU member Jeremy Poxon also tweeted about the stabbing, expressing sympathy for Ms Cassar and instead taking aim at Services Australia for not keeping people “safe”.
“A few things on this: 1) it’s awful. hope the worker is ok”, he tweeted.
“2) Services Aus isn’t doing its job to keep [people] safe. The attacker had been banned from the site, but was allowed to enter [and] 3) Given how awful conditions are, incidents like this will continue.”
my job agent said he has stress dreams about clients who pose a risk to staff. he said these ppl are suffering extreme mental illness, & shouldn’t be forced to come in. alas, government policy isn’t giving them the support they need & putting them on a collision course w/ staff
— jeremy poxon (@JeremyPoxon) May 24, 2023
Mr Poxon said his job agent said people like Chase “shouldn’t be forced to come in” to Centrelink offices.
Instead, he said, “government policy isn’t giving them the support they need [and was] putting them on a collision course [with] staff”.
On Friday, 2GB broadcaster Ben Fordham slammed Ms Autumn’s post turning the attack against Ms Cassar into a “strange political message”.
“Someone from the Unemployed Workers Union has turned the stabbing into some kind of strange political message, her name is Phoebe Autumn,” Fordham said on-air.
“Oh boy,” he said after reading Ms Autumn’s bizarre tweet to listeners.
“An innocent woman is stabbed in Centrelink and this fruit cake, Phoebe Autumn, says ‘this is Anthony Albanese’s preferred welfare system. The Centrelink officer had all the power until a weapon was brought into the equation.’
“Who would write such a thing? Well, Phoebe Autumn from the Australian Unemployed Workers Union.”
Ms Autumn is an ally of the union led by notorious Melbournian Jez Heywood, who recently clashed with Fordham on-air after complaining about the $20-a-week Jobseeker increase allocated in the federal budget.
She frequently tweets about unemployment, Centrelink and LGBTQI+ rights.
On Tuesday, Ms Cassar’s husband, Andrew Giusti, told Melbourne radio station 3AW that his wife narrowly avoided having her spine severed in the stabbing attack.
Joeanne Cassar and her husband, Andrew Giusti. Picture: Supplied
He said she lay in a “pool of blood” until he got there about 25 minutes after the attack.
“She said to me, ‘Thank God it was me and not one of my co-workers.’ I got down on the floor and I talked to her and told her I was there and to hang on,” he said.
“She shouldn’t have been put in that position,” Mr Giusti told broadcaster Neil Mitchell.
He said his wife had worked at Services Australia for 36 years, but he would be surprised if she returned to work after the incident.
“I think that will be it for her.”
Ms Cassar’s family told Nine News they were seeking workers compensation and considering further legal action.
Ms Cassar is fighting for her life in a Melbourne hospital. Picture: Facebook
Mr Chase, from Essendon, was later charged with intentionally causing serious injury, recklessly causing serious injury, reckless conduct endangering life, common law assault, and use and possession of a controlled weapon.
Police allege he was banned from the branch because of previous violent behaviour towards staff and had been ordered to leave the branch earlier that morning.
Update after horror stabbing at Centrelink officeStabbed Centrelink worker fighting for life
Ms Cassar, a team leader, reportedly locked the doors and initiated a screening process but she was later ordered to open the doors before Ms Chase returned at about 1.30pm and stabbed her.
Mr Chase appeared at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday evening where he did not apply for bail.