ⓘ Brodie's Law (act)

Brodie's Law (act)

ⓘ Brodies Law (act)

Brodies Law is an amendment to the Victorian Crimes Act 1958 which makes serious bullying an offence punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. The law is named after Brodie Panlock, a 19-year-old who took her own life after being bullied at work. Brodies parents, Damien and Rae Panlock, successfully lobbied the Victorian Government to make the amendment.


1. Brodie Panlock

Brodie Rae Constance Panlock grew up in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne in the Australian state of Victoria with her parents and two older brothers. In early 2005, at the age of 18, Brodie started working at Cafe Vamp in Hawthorn an inner suburb of Melbourne. In March 2006, shortly after her 19th birthday, Brodie moved to a small flat in Hawthorn to be closer to work. Cafe Vamp helped Brodie with references and lent her the bond money for the flat. She worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week: 5 & 6 and was described as a "loyal employee" and "buoyant, chirpy, compassionate, patient, giving girl" by co-workers. Panlock had plans to save enough money to travel overseas with her brother and his girlfriend before enrolling at TAFE to study social work.

In September 2006, Brodie jumped from the top of a multilevel carpark in Hawthorn and died from her injuries in The Alfred Hospital three days later.


1.1. Brodie Panlock Bullying

Panlock became involved in an intermittent intimate relationship with the cafe manager Nicholas Smallwood in the fifteen months leading up to her death. Panlock became infatuated with Smallwood, but the attention was not returned.

In the last few months Panlocks relationship with Smallwood became unhealthy, according to Coroner Peter White, who found that Smallwood and others "systematically bullied her, both physically and emotionally". Smallwood, fellow waiter Rhys MacAlpine and, to a lesser extent, chef Gabriel Toomey, called her names, told her she was fat, ugly and a whore. They kicked and spat on her, held her down and poured oil on her hair and clothes, covered her in chocolate sauce and filled her kit bag with fish oil. Other employees intervened without effect, and the cafe owner Marcus Dela Cruz turned a blind eye to the behaviour.

In May 2006 after being kicked out of Smallwoods apartment, Panlock took rat poison and alcohol in a suicide attempt. Smallwood later taunted Panlock that she could not do it properly, and put rat poison in her handbag.


1.2. Brodie Panlock Final days

On 20 September 2006, Smallwood left her flat after Panlock had begged him to stay. She called a former school friend Ashlea Cooper, who gave evidence to the inquest. Cooper recalled that Panlock "cried hysterically" and felt that she had made a fool of herself, saying:

How embarrassing. I want to die. Ash, it is over. I have had enough. Its over.

Shortly after 11:00pm on 20 September 2006, Brodie jumped from the top of a multilevel carpark in Hawthorn; she died from her injuries in The Alfred Hospital three days later.


1.3. Brodie Panlock Penalty

Four men and MAP Foundation, the company that owned Cafe Vamp, were charged with offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 for their part in bullying Panlock. They pleaded guilty to the charges on 8 February 2010, at the Melbourne Magistrates Court. They were ordered to pay $335.000 in fines as follows:

  • Rhys MacAlpine – $30.000
  • Gabriel Toomey – $10.000
  • Nicholas Smallwood – $45.000
  • MAP Foundation – $220.000
  • Marcus Dela Cruz – $30.000

2.1. Law Reform Victoria

Brodie Panlocks parents Damien and Rae Panlock successfully lobbied the Victorian Government to make changes to the law to include serious bullying as an offence punishable by imprisonment.

On 4 November 2010 the Victorian Attorney-General asked the Victorian Law Reform Commission to review the adequacy of Victorias criminal laws in dealing with serious bullying. The request was made to ensure that perpetrators of serious bullying receive appropriate sanction under Victorias criminal law. On 5 April 2011, the Attorney-General introduced the Crimes Amendment Bullying Bill 2011 to Parliament, which amended the offence of stalking under section 21 of the Crimes Act 1958, to include serious bullying as a crime carrying a maximum penalty of ten years. The Bill received royal assent on 7 June 2011, and commenced immediately; it is colloquially known as "Brodies Law".

In the five years since the laws proclamation on 16 June 2011, fifty-eight offenders were charged with 140 offences against Brodies Law.


2.2. Law Reform National

The Victoria Attorney-General Robert Clark announced that Brodies Law would be discussed at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in November 2011.

The response by the Victorian government was backed by the Federal Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten. In September 2011 the New South Wales Government was examining the Victorian legislation.

Damien and Rae Panlock continued to lobby the federal government because they feared that the states would fail to agree on the matter. On 26 May 2012, they met with Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and Bill Shorten, now Minister for Workplace Relations, and made a joint announcement of a national parliamentary inquiry into bullying. The report was released on 25 November 2012, and "contained 23 recommendations including the adoption of a new national definition of workplace bullying, a workplace bullying hotline and a legislative and regulatory framework." In response to the recommendations the Federal Parliament passed the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 which gave the Fair Work Commission jurisdiction to hear and resolve "a workplace incidence of bullying".


3. Brodies Law Foundation

In late 2012, Damien and Rae Panlock toured Victoria, using the first anniversary of the introduction of Brodies Law to raise awareness about bullying.

Damien and Rae Panlock continue to tour Australia and speak in workplaces and at public events, to campaign against bullying. The foundation assists with education in workplaces, schools and sporting clubs, with speaking engagements and production of education packages for teachers, club members, employers, and employees.

In February 2017, Brodies Law Foundation was formed and registered as a charity.