Ballarat man Joseph Haebich admits coward-punching after racial abuse on bus

A Ballarat man who racially abused a university student on a public bus before coward-punching a good Samaritan who came to her defence has pleaded guilty.

Joseph Haebich, 24, was on a Federation University Australia bus about 10.55am on April 13, 2016, when he made a racial comment about a young female student, who was exiting the bus, to his friend.

A male passenger heard the comment, telling Haebich to ‘shut up’, to which Haebich relied with expletive language. When the male passenger exited the bus in Lydiard Street, Haebich followed and hit him from behind causing him to fall onto a shop window.

Haebich yelled at the victim, telling him to ‘come here you coward’. The victim tried to follow Haebich down Bath Lane but realised he was injured with a swollen ankle, ear wounds and forehead bruising.

He returned to Ballarista cafe where he was assaulted and staff helped him before calling an ambulance.

Haebich pleaded guilty at Ballarat Magistrates Court on Tuesday to charges stemming from the incident, as well as a number of consolidated charges related to car theft and possessing an imitation firearm. His mother and partner supported him at the hearing.

Police said Haebich’s DNA was linked to two car thefts across Ballarat last year. On December 3, 2016 at 1am a family were sleeping when offenders entered their Ballarat home to steal keys to a Ford Focus sedan worth $14,000.

In another incident, a $15,000 Holden Cruz was stolen from a Delacombe home after offenders entered the house and stole a handbag and keys.

Defence lawyer Jonathan Makary said his client was an Aboriginal man who had spent time in jail, and had currently been in custody for 132 days.

“If he doesn’t get a (Community Corrections Order) he is probably looking at a non-parole period. He has had them in the past but now he is not even considered,” Mr Makary said.

He urged the court to consider imposing a CCO with a component for Haebich to reside at Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place, a residential diversion program for Koori men.

Magistrate Clive Alsop agreed a Wulgunggo Ngalu component would be appropriate for Haebich. He ordered a pre-sentence report to be prepared and adjourned sentence to October 19.