The family of a First Nations man who died in custody in 2016 have staged a rally in Adelaide to demand answers and to call for the immediate ban of controversial spit hoods.
Wayne Fella Morrison was a 29-year-old Wiradjuri, Kokatha, and Wirangu man, who died three days after he was taken out of a prison transport van at Yatala Labour Prison in September 2016.
It was alleged Morrison was involved in an altercation with two prison guards ahead of his transfer to Yatala prison. He was pinned to the ground by up to 12 guards, with his hands and ankles cuffed, and a spit hood placed over his head.
Guards then carried him to the prison transport van, where he was placed face down in it. Seven prison staff, plus the driver of the van, rode with him to Yatala prison.
Morrison was pulled unresponsive from the van and never regained consciousness.
The coronial inquest into the circumstances surrounding his death began in late 2018 and remains ongoing after a lengthy delay due to the pandemic.
On Thursday, his family and supporters gathered at Tarndanyangga/Victoria Square where a van with the words “ban spit hoods” on it arrived full of seven people dressed as prison officers with spit hoods over their heads, badges that read “silent”, and blood on their hands.
Justice for Fella pic.twitter.com/i2sw7uOafa— Dominic Guerrera (@GuerreraDominic) May 6, 2021
“Almost five years on and we are still waiting for answers but we continue to face silence and delays,” Morrison’s family wrote on Facebook.
“We want to know what happened in the back of that van.”
The family also called on South Australia Premier Steven Marshall, Attorney General Vickie Chapman, and Minister for Correctional Services Vincent Tarzia to put an immediate and permanent ban on spit hoods.
“If spit hoods were banned, Wayne might still be here.”
The officers who were in the van have been ordered to give evidence when the inquest continues on Friday.
Morrison’s family have launched a Change.org petition to support the banning of spit hoods, which you can find here.
In 2019, spit hoods on youth detainees were abolished in South Australia following a shocking report by the state’s ombudsman that detailed the use of them on children as young as 13.