Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 17, 2023


Morrison, Mr W.F.

The Hon. C. BONAROS (14:48): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Attorney-General a question about a coronial inquest.

Leave granted.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: Last week, Deputy Coroner Jayne Basheer handed down her findings into the death of Wayne Fella Morrison, who died tragically in the Royal Adelaide Hospital on 26 September 2016 from multiorgan failure. She found in her report there were a litany of serious failings and shortcomings in how a first-time Aboriginal inmate was managed in both the police cells and the state's highest security prison.

Ms Basheer found Mr Morrison's death was possibly preventable and labelled conditions under which prisoners were held at the Holden Hill police cells as 'barbaric and inhumane'. She said the failings of the Department for Correctional Services that led to the death of an Indigenous man are so numerous that the department cannot be trusted to remedy its own shortcomings.

Following the handing down of the findings, the correctional services minister said the department:

…will now consider the findings and recommendations laid out in the Deputy Coroner's report and compare those recommendations against what has already been implemented.

My questions to the minister are:

1. Have you now had the opportunity to read the Coroner's report, and what are your views on those findings?

2. Have you met with your head of department to discuss its content?

3. What, if anything, will you be doing to address the recommendations insofar as they relate to your portfolios at least?

4. Does the minister acknowledge the warnings of the Coroner in stating that the Department for Correctional Services cannot be trusted to remedy its own shortcomings?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:50): I thank the honourable member for her very important questions. It is a tragic set of circumstances that led to the death of Wayne Fella Morrison, who was a 29-year-old Aboriginal man who eventually died in Royal Adelaide Hospital back in 2016. I certainly remember it well; it was when we were last in government when I was also Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

In the more than half a decade since, I have had a lot of discussions and contact with members of Mr Morrison's family about changes that can already be made and have already been made, particularly in relation to the use of spit hoods, and I know that's something the honourable member has had a significant interest in and an influence in shaping policy in relation to this area.

Last week the results of the coronial inquest were handed down. I have read a lot of the inquest. I think it runs to maybe 164 pages. It is very weighty, as it needs to be. It is a very weighty report that looks at the circumstances that led to the death, the recommendations to change systems to try to prevent such things occurring in the future.

I have already had some discussions with the heads of my department in the Attorney-General's Department. The vast majority, from an initial reading of the recommendations, relate to how Corrections does things, identifies things in the processes they have in place in terms of managing Aboriginal people who find themselves in the corrections system, but also the training and how correctional officers conduct themselves in certain circumstances. It is something I will be keeping myself abreast of.

I do note one of the recommendations, as the honourable member has pointed out, is that there be oversight that is not from Corrections. Certainly, I will continue to talk to my colleague the Minister for Correctional Services about that and the different parts of government that may be best placed to help with the implementation of those recommendations.