Legislative Council: Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Morrison, Mr W.F.

The Hon. C. BONAROS (15:34): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on the coronial inquest into Wayne Fella Morrison.

Leave granted.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: Earlier this month, Deputy Coroner Jayne Basheer handed down her findings into the death of Mr Morrison, a proud 29-year-old Indigenous man who died in the Royal Adelaide Hospital in September 2016, three days after he was pulled unresponsive from a Yatala Labour Prison van surrounded by guards. Ms Basheer was scathing in her findings of the failings of the Department for Correctional Services, which were so numerous it cannot be trusted to 'remedy its own failings and independent oversight is required'.

I note that I have asked a similar question on this issue before, but during the inquest counsel for the Morrison family provided detailed submissions directed at the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report into Aboriginal deaths in custody and the 2017 report of a review by the National Indigenous Australians Agency and related matters. Reference was made to that report, which concluded that systemic failures to implement the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendations had occurred in South Australia which, had they been implemented, could have prevented Mr Morrison's death.

Counsel for the Morrison family submitted the court should recommend the implementation of particular commission recommendations which are said to arise from these proceedings, and while the Deputy Coroner agreed that the matters raised were clearly important, she did not make any such recommendation as she believed they were not central to the inquiry and would not, and I quote, 'necessarily require a whole of government approach'. As such, my questions to the minister are:

1. Does the government have any plans to implement any of the Deputy Coroner's recommendations?

2. If so, which ones and does that include the Deputy Coroner's recommendations that an independent board of inquiry be appointed by the government to undertake a comprehensive review of the key findings and to make recommendations to government with particular reference and emphasis on but not exclusive to the content and delivery of restraining training to correctional officers at Yatala, the content and delivery of training for supervisory roles, performance review processes and record-keeping requirements, with particular emphasis on records relating to risk assessment, and the feasibility of moving from paper-based to electronic systems?

3. Why hasn't an audit into that implementation of recommendations been done to date?

4. Will the minister now give a guarantee that such an audit will be undertaken?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:37): I thank the honourable member for her important questions related to this area. The implementation of the recommendation falls to the corrections minister, the Hon. Joe Szakacs, the member for Cheltenham, but of course I took a very strong interest when the report was handed down. Certainly, on the day it was handed down, I read the recommendations that were contained in that report and a lot of parts of the report.

I note that there have been changes implemented since the tragic death of Wayne Fella Morrison back in 2016 and, noteworthy amongst those—and I know the honourable member has been a driving force of this—has been the prohibition of the use of spit hoods in areas of detention that has occurred in South Australia as a direct result of the tragic death of Wayne Fella Morrison and the advocacy of a number of people in this chamber.

It certainly has been placed by South Australia on the agenda of the meetings that happen a few times a year of attorneys-general from around Australia to inform them of what we have done in South Australia and the reasons why we have gone down the route of legislated bans on the use of spit hoods.

In relation to a number of other recommendations, particularly (I think) the honourable member referred to processes of intake and training of officers, I know that the minister for corrections is looking at all the recommendations that were handed down and how the government will respond to those, and the Department for Correctional Services, which overwhelmingly the recommendations are aimed at.

I think the honourable member talked about an independent board of inquiry. That will form part of the deliberations of the government. I think, if I am remembering correctly, that recommendation suggested that that be from outside the corrections department, and that is certainly something that is a matter for broader government to look at, while most of the others are for corrections themselves to look at.

I think the final part of the honourable member's questions were in relation to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and all the recommendations that were made—I know there were yearly or two-yearly audits that happened for a number of years after those recommendations of the royal commission were handed down. I think they were undertaken by an external agency, one of the big auditing firms.

It was some years ago, if my memory serves me correctly, that the last audit report was handed down, but certainly looking at ways to reduce the incidence and possible occurrence of Aboriginal deaths in custody is something this government is interested in doing and certainly something that this chamber had an interest in doing when we had legislation in the last term before us for a custody notification scheme, which we now see as part of the regulations.