I rise to speak on the petition I tabled yesterday following the stalking-related murder, three weeks ago, of 23 year old Celeste Manno at her Mernda home. Celeste’s death is another devastating case, among far too many recently in Victoria, of a woman taken absolutely senselessly from our society.
This beautiful, vivacious young woman should be alive today spending time with her family, boyfriend and other friends. Instead, her mother had to lay her daughter to rest last week. Something no parent should ever have to do.
I do not have long to speak today. So I need at this point to (unfortunately, far too briefly) acknowledge Naciye Erel, one of Celeste’s friends, for starting and working so hard on the petition – especially at such a difficult time.
Naciye: you should be incredibly proud of the significant impact it has already generated, including in helping to initiate discussions between Celeste’s family, the Government and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party on the reform and better enforcement of stalking laws.
These kinds of conversations are crucial – because there simply must be a strengthening of Victoria’s response to the mounting prevalence, and the increasingly brazen nature and traumatising impact of stalking in our State.
On that note, I want to say how honoured and humbled I have been over recent days to talk in detail to Celeste’s mother, Aggie, and her brother, Alessandro. Their love for Celeste, and their strength in such awful circumstances, is extraordinary.
Mr Grimley and I will certainly continue to do whatever we possibly can to deliver some justice in at least a legislative sense for them – and I urge everyone here to help.
I also must sincerely thank the Premier’s office, as well as the Attorney General and her staff, for their interactions with us and with Aggie and Alessandro in recent days as well.
I also express my gratitude to them for their announcements today that, following Celeste’s murder, there will now be an urgent VLRC review into intervention orders and stalking responses.
Very sadly, there has been a steady upward incline in the criminal offence of stalking over a number of years. Not coincidentally in that sense, I have also found myself speaking in recent months with a rapidly growing number of victims about the debilitating impact of being the subject of a stalker’s actions.
Without exception, they are expressing a deep sense of anger about the difficulty of prosecuting (or even just stopping) those making their existences a living hell. Very justifiably, many feel that – to anyone wanting to hurt and/or terrorise them – an intervention order is simply a meaningless piece of paper.
Typically, they feel powerless and overwhelmed – not least about the lack of protection for victims and the absence of serious punishment or deterrence for the often-monstrous actions of perpetrators.
They are also frustrated with a system they believe is too reactive, given that many offenders seemingly need to repeatedly breach conditions before they are even incarcerated, subject to an order, or fined. Furthermore, the involvement of psychologists and counsellors (let alone proactive monitoring and programs) to help address, control and/or change such behaviour currently appears all too rare.
As this petition expresses with clarity and with the backing of over 8,000 people, we have to do better and we must escalate the consequences for those who deliberately taunt, follow and inflict fear and harm on others.