‘Overjoyed’: family of Wayne Fella Morrison hail South Australian spit hood ban

Bill passes ahead of five-year anniversary of Indigenous man’s death in custody after being restrained in prison

The family of Wayne Fella Morrison have hailed the passing of legislation to ban the use of spit hoods in South Australia on Thursday as “history making”.

The bill was introduced in September by SA Best party MLC Connie Bonaros, ahead of the five-year anniversary of Morrison’s death.

Morrison, a 29-year-old Wiradjuri, Kokatha and Wirangu man, had not been convicted of any crime and was being held on remand when he died on 26 September 2016 at the Royal Adelaide hospital after being restrained at Yatala labour prison.

In the five years since Morrison’s death, his mother, Caroline Andersen, and his sibling, Latoya Rule, have been fighting to ban the use of spit hoods in South Australian prisons while they await the outcome of a coronial inquest into his death in custody. The inquest has run for three years.

The ban passed unanimously with the full support of the Labor opposition and makes the use of spit hoods on both adults and children a criminal offence within the state. South Australia is the first state to officially enact such a ban.

Labor MP Lee Odenwalder said the ban was a “long time coming” and apologised to the family for the delay in action.

“I want to apologise to Latoya and the family of Wayne Fella Morrison for how long this bill has taken, since the conclusion by all parties it seems earlier this year that this was the right path to go down,” he said.

Rule said they were “overjoyed” at the result.

“I felt bitter at the lack of action over such a long time. Today, to receive that apology from Lee on behalf of the Labor party. It means so much,” Rule said.

“I actually feel like they care and that history has literally been made. Something beautiful can be made out of something devastating.”

Bonaros said it was a “travesty” the family was still waiting for the coronial investigation into Morrison’s death to conclude, but the ban marked a “historic” first step towards justice.

“The parliament’s done its work today on this very important issue and I couldn’t be more proud,” Bonaros said. “And I’m exceptionally grateful to the Morrison family for entrusting me with the carriage of this through the parliament.”

Before the final vote South Australian attorney general, Vickie Chapman, noted spit hoods have not been used in the state’s prisons since September.

“This bill puts beyond doubt our commitment to cease the use of spit hoods,” Chapman said.

Odenwalder paid tribute to Morrison’s family.

“I want to publicly acknowledge and thank and pay tribute to the family of the late Wayne Fella Morrison and in particular Latoya Rule.”

“She, it is fair to say, has turned adversity and tragedy into something positive, into advocacy and something that actually changes the world for people like the late Wayne Fella Morrison.”

The family say they will continue campaigning for a national ban on the use of the spit hoods in any correctional facility anywhere in the country.

Contributor

Royce Kurmelovs

The GuardianTramp

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