Please note: This story contains reference to someone who has died.
After half a decade of advocacy, the South Australian Parliament will vote to permanently ban the use of spit hoods on Wednesday.
The Parliament will vote on Fella’s Bill, known as the Statues Amendment (Spit Hood Prohibition) Bill which would see the removal of spit hoods as restrain devices in the state.
The legislation is a result of five years of advocacy by the family of Wayne Fella Morrison who died in custody in 2016.
A Wiradjuri, Wirangu and Kokatha man, Morrison died at Royal Adelaide Hospital in September.
He was on remand at Adelaide’s Yatala Labour Prison when he was handcuffed, restrained by flexi-cuffs and put in a spit hood. Morrison was placed face down in a prison van to be transferred to another area of the prison. Seven officers accompanied him in transit.
Morrison was pulled unresponsive from the van and died three days later. There is no CCTV evidence from inside the vehicle.
Since his death, Morrison’s family have been fiercely advocating for the ban of spit hoods by law in all institutional contexts including prisons and police custody, mental health facilities and immigration detention centres.
South Australian MP Connie Bonaros, who introduced the bill into state Parliament in April 2020, will read a statement from the family in Parliament on Wednesday to signify the vote sitting on the 5th anniversary of Morrison’s passing.
“In two days from now it’ll be five years since Fella was restrained with a spit hood. He was the type of man who truly valued his space and his freedom,” the statement reads.
“It devastates us to know that he died without space, without freedom, and that his lack of space and freedom took the breath that would have brought him back to us. His death was preventable.”
Morrison’s mother, Caroline Andersen and his sibling Latoya Aroha Rule welcome the vote on Wednesday.
“The last time I heard my son’s voice was a week before his image became synonymous with these barbaric devices,” Andersen said.
“I welcome this step toward accountability, but it isn’t the end for us. I call for a Royal Commission into my son’s death, and a national ban on spit hoods, so that other parents don’t have to suffer this grief.”
“‘I can’t breathe’ was a statement that shook the world in 2020, and subsequent campaigns signal to governments that the people are pleading to be treated humanely,” said Rule.
“Today’s vote will be a historic move for Australia that aligns with that vision toward justice. It should not even be a question… legislate the ban.”
Ms Bonaros stands in solidarity with the family, calling for the Parliament to vote in favour of the ban.
“There is absolutely no place in our society for the use of spit hoods regardless of the environment- whether it be in prison, a police cell or a hospital ward,” she said.
“Their use is barbaric and draconian and has led to the deaths of people around the world – including in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.
“I hope it gives some comfort to Mr Morrison’s family and I congratulate them on their five year fight to ensure these laws were implemented in honour of their son, brother, father and uncle.”
The family have gathered a petition of over 26,000 signatures supporting their call for a permanent ban of spit hoods which they will deliver to SA Parliament.
“Spit hoods continue to be lawful despite the risk to the safety and lives of people subjected to them, and despite human rights bodies and health research recommending against their use, and in favour of safer and readily available alternatives, such as PPE,” they said.
The coronial inquest into Morrison’s death will continue September 28. The last week of the inquest will hear final oral submissions.
“For five years our family have demanded answers and justice, while enduring a coronial inquest, with constant delays, a review by the SA Ombudsman and a Parliamentary Inquiry into the Administration of SA Prisons,” said the family.
“We are still waiting.
“We call on Parliamentarians to support Fella’s Bill, for our son and brother’s legacy, and so no other person or family has to experience this injustice and heartbreak.”
By Rachael Knowles