Brodie's law to get workplace bullies

AFTER almost five years of torment, it took an hour yesterday of well-meaning speeches to force Rae Panlock from the Legislative Assembly in Victoria's Parliament House.

The grieving mother of Brodie Panlock, the 19-year-old waitress who committed suicide after relentless workplace bullying, glanced at her husband Damian, who had seen that look on his wife's face too many painful times.

The fifth speaker of many to what will always be known as ''Brodie's law'' - a change to the Crimes Act that introduces 10-year prison terms for bullying - first expressed sympathy to the Panlocks.

Then she recounted, as each speaker - Liberal, Labor and Green - had before them a summary of the physical and psychological bullying Brodie suffered. It was too much for Ms Panlock whose husband led her from the plush crimson benches of the overly warm upper chamber outside the doors to where government officials helped them.

''It's very hard to sit there and relive the whole thing again,'' Ms Panlock said. ''It just brings back …''

After more than two hours of talking, the politicians last night passed the Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Bill 2011, with the Panlocks present, and one they hope will lead to similar federal changes.

Brodie died in September 2006 after what a magistrate described as ''persistent and vicious behaviour'' towards her at the former Cafe Vamp in Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn.

Staff members Marc Da Cruz, Nicholas Smallwood, Rhys MacAlpine, and Gabriel Toomey - and Da Cruz's company - pleaded guilty last year to workplace charges.

The five defendants were convicted and fined a total of $335,000.

A coroner earlier said Smallwood and MacAlpine were ''relentless in their efforts to demean'' Brodie, terrible details her parents had listened to in disbelief.

Come yesterday, the Panlocks had been determined to witness into law their tireless efforts over the past 18 months to see some enduring justice for their daughter. Mr Panlock said the bill was a ''huge victory'' and a credit to bipartisan politics of the previous and present state governments.

''No one ever thought this would happen,'' he said.

And his wife, always calm but fragile, warned with feeling: ''If you are [now] going to engage in this behaviour, you've got the consequences of ending up in jail.

''I just hope no family ever has to go through anything like this again,'' she said.

Maybe Labor member Jaala Pulford captured best an awful reality when she noted that ''it's a terrible thing that we live in a society that requires a law like this''.

For help or information visit, call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251, or Lifeline on 131 114.