Spit hood ban passes South Australian parliament five years after Indigenous man’s death

Controversial restraint will be criminalised after state’s upper house backs bill with unanimous support

South Australia will become the first state to criminalise the use of spit hoods after a bill to ban their use passed a crucial vote in the state’s parliament with unanimous support.

The bill was introduced ahead of the five-year anniversary of Wayne Fella 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 institutions while they await the outcome of a coronial inquest into his death in custody. The inquest has run for three years.

A spit hood is a mesh-fabric hood that covers the face and is fixed at the neck to physically prevent a person from spitting during restraint.

The private member’s bill to ban their use was introduced by the SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros in April 2020, and it passed in the Legislative Council on Wednesday night with support from the Greens MLC Tammy Franks and Labor’s Kyam Maher.

The South Australian Liberal party is understood to have supported the bill, meaning it is expected to pass an upcoming vote in the House of Assembly and become law.

When it does the ban will end the use of spit hoods across South Australian prisons, mental health institutions and police custody. The ban is expected to be in effect by the end of September.

Speaking after the vote, Andersen said the result was a long time coming after the family’s calls for change were ignored for so long.

“I’m happy that we’ve finally got there,” Morrison’s mother said.

“Just knowing that at least in South Australia for the moment, if any professional, whether it be a nurse, doctor or prison officer, police officer, whoever who is in a position of authority, if they were to use one of these devices, it’s against the law now.

“And they would be held responsible.”

However, Rule said the significance of the moment was lost in a sense of “frustration” that it had taken so much time to get action.

“The people of South Australia should question why this was allowed to go on for so long and why those who knew about it didn’t act,” Rule said.

Rule said they appreciated the work of Bonaros and Franks, but was also “proud” to have the support of Maher.

“He stood with our community and with Wayne without even knowing him,” Rule said. “I think the Aboriginal community of South Australia can know that Kyam made this move today in support of us, and against Aboriginal deaths in custody.”

The family say they are now renewing their calls calling for a formal apology from the South Australian government, a royal commission into Morrison’s death owing to the roadblocks experienced at the coronial inquest, and a national ban on the use of the devices.

Bonaros said she was “humbled and extraordinarily grateful” to be trusted with the bill but that it shouldn’t have taken an “incredible amount of human effort” to achieve the result.

“It absolutely shouldn’t have taken this long,” Bonaros said. “It should not have taken global recognition of Wayne’s death to finally to finally accept that there’s no place for spit hoods in our society.

“We should have reached that conclusion a very long time.”

The Northern Territory banned the use of spit hoods when images showing their use on 13-year-old Dylan Voller while he was detained at the Don Dale youth detention centre sparked national outrage.

South Australia was the last state to ban their use on children but until now has continued to allow their use on adults.

An online petition created by the family has collected more than 26,000 signatures since the campaign began.

The coronial inquest into the death Morrison remains ongoing with the coroner Jayne Basheer expected to hear final submissions next Tuesday.


Royce Kurmelovs

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Children pinned to floor and forced to wear spit hoods at South Australian detention centre
Ombudsman says restraint device ‘inherently traumatic’ and should be phased out

Calla Wahlquist

25, Sep, 2019 @6:19 AM

Article image
South Australia reform push after another 'medical episode' death in custody
Indigenous man with chronic health problems who died a police station the fourth in a year

Calla Wahlquist

23, Aug, 2017 @9:43 AM

Article image
‘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

Royce Kurmelovs

18, Nov, 2021 @4:45 AM

Article image
Indigenous prisoner restrained by 14 officers before death in custody, footage shows
Inquest shown ‘distressing’ images of Wayne Morrison, who was left unresponsive after altercation at Adelaide’s Yatala prison

Lorena Allam

27, Aug, 2018 @9:40 AM

Article image
‘Right decision’ to scrap French submarines but South Australian jobs will be lost
Senator Rex Patrick says there were doubts over the Shortfin Barracuda but ‘it’s a huge jump’ to building a nuclear submarine

Tory Shepherd

16, Sep, 2021 @7:20 AM

Article image
Nation counts cost of Australian blazes after communities devastated – as it happened
Residents in South Australia and New South Wales wait to discover the extent of devastation from the weekend’s blazes. This blog is now closed

Josh Taylor, Amy Corderoy and Calla Wahlquist

23, Dec, 2019 @7:23 AM

Article image
South Australian windfarms revise safety settings after statewide blackout
Energy market operator says nine of 13 windfarms ‘tripped’ because their settings disconnected them from the grid after transmission lines were blown over

Michael Slezak

19, Oct, 2016 @12:40 AM

Article image
Two more deaths in New South Wales after state records 145 new infections – as it happened
Follow latest updates live

Naaman Zhou (now) and Matilda Boseley and Mostafa Rachwani (earlier)

26, Jul, 2021 @8:33 AM

Article image
Election 2016: Turnbull urges voters 'to avoid 'chaos of a hung parliament'
Prime minister says ‘now is not the time for a protest vote or a wasted vote’ and warns voters not to return to ‘yet another minority government’

Melissa Davey

04, Jun, 2016 @3:40 AM

Article image
"Global supply shock' to affect Australian supplies – as it happened
Move to suspend trans-Tasman arrangement for 72 hours prompted by Covid variant case in Auckland. Also, late February Pfizer vaccine rollout planned. This blog is now closed

Mostafa Rachwani (now) and Calla Wahlquist (earlier)

25, Jan, 2021 @9:52 AM