Stabbed Centrelink worker fighting for life

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The family of a Centrelink worker left fighting for life after she was allegedly stabbed by a disgruntled customer are considering legal action against Services Australia, saying the incident should never have happened.

Joeanne Cassar, 55, was rushed to Royal Melbourne Hospital with “life-threatening injuries” after she was allegedly stabbed multiple times in the “upper body” at the Airport West branch in Melbourne’s north at about 1.30pm on Tuesday, police and ambulance officials said.

Elijah Chase, 34, was taken into custody nearby.

He had reportedly been ordered to leave the branch earlier that morning, with Ms Cassar, a Centrelink team leader, locking the doors and initiating a screening process.

But Nine News reports she was ordered to open the doors, before police allege Mr Chase returned at about 1.30pm and stabbed her.

“She laid in that position in a pool of blood until I got there, which was about 25 minutes later,” her husband Andrew Giusti told the broadcaster on Wednesday.

“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.”

Centrelink worker Joeanne Cassar was stabbed on Tuesday. Picture: FacebookCentrelink worker Joeanne Cassar was stabbed on Tuesday. 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.

He appeared at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday evening where he did not apply for bail.

Ms Cassar’s family told Nine News they were seeking workers compensation and considering further legal action.

“I could have lost her,” Mr Giusti said.

“She could have died or she could have ended up in a wheelchair. I’m mad as hell with what has happened and it shouldn’t have happened.”

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten visited the Airport West office on Wednesday to offer support to staff, saying he was “shocked and saddened” by the incident.

An urgent review of security at Services Australia centres will be conducted by former Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton.

According to Nine News, another worker was assaulted 18 months ago in an unrelated incident at the same branch.

The Centrelink office in Melbourne’s Airport West. Picture: Nine NewsThe Centrelink office in Melbourne’s Airport West. Picture: Nine News

“Joeanne deserves to feel let down,” the family’s lawyer Allanah Goodwin told Nine News on Wednesday.

“People deserve to be safe at work. From what we understand, in this case Joeanne was actually proactive.”

Witnesses reported hearing screaming coming from the storefront at the Westfield.

“Investigators have been told a man attacked a woman at a business on Louis Street about 1.30pm,” Victoria Police said in a statement on Tuesday.

“A crime scene has been set up while police work to establish the circumstances surrounding the incident.”

Isabella Piller, who was working nearby at the time, said she heard children screaming.

“I heard a lot of children screaming which made my heart drop,” she told Seven News.

“I genuinely thought something really bad was happening.”

Services Australia General Manager Hank Jongen said on Tuesday was a very sad day for staff and customers.

“This is a very sad day for our agency and our staff who come to work every day to support Australians,” Mr Jongen said.

“They should be free to do their job without concern for their personal safety.”

He said Services Australia was supporting staff and customers.

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“Our hearts are with the injured service officer and their loved ones. Thankfully, they are in a stable condition and receiving the best possible care.”

— with NCA NewsWire

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