South Australia has become the first Australian state or territory to criminalise the use of spit hoods after its lower house passed a crucial vote to ban their use.
Known as Fella’s Bill, the prohibition legislation pays tribute to Wiradjuri, Wirangu and Kokatha man Wayne Fella Morrison who died in custody in Adelaide's Yatala prison in September 2016.
Mr Morrison passed away days after he was wrestled to the ground by 12 prison guards, made to wear a spit hood and placed face-down in the back of a prison van.
His sibling Latoya Rule has been fighting to ban spit hood use since.
“Today, we’re not seen as just grieving families without power or angry activists, we’re actually seen as changemakers with strategy and perseverance,” they told NITV News.
“Today is a display that our brother's life mattered enough to cause literal, legislative change for all of South Australia… Wayne’s name will remain with those politicians for the rest of their lives.”
Fella’s Bill received unanimous support in South Australia’s upper house on 22 September, implementing a ban on spit hoods in prisons, police custody and mental health settings across the state.
SA-BEST MP Connie Bonaros, who introduced the bill in 2020, said she’s pleased spit hoods will now be banned regardless of the setting.
“This historic day is testament to Wayne’s family and their unwavering commitment and determination,” Ms Bonaros said.
“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, mental health facility or a hospital ward.”
“Their use is barbaric and draconian and has led to the deaths of people around the world.”
Mr Morrison’s family is now calling on the other states and territories to follow suit in an effort to prevent more deaths in custody.
“Our family definitely worried for the other states… There are people like Dylan Voller, young children who had spit hoods placed upon them in custody,” Latoya Rule said.
“They’re torture devices, they need to end torture across Australia and not just for a small population of people.”
The new laws are expected to come into force in South Australia next week, but the Morrison family’s fight for justice is far from over.
The inquest into his death, which began in 2018, is yet to deliver its findings.
“We're still waiting for the report to be handed down, so it's taken more than five years now but it should be happening next year,” Latoya said.
“We have hope that this ban will raise questions that pertain to justice for Wayne in the coronial court. No person has been held accountable for Wayne’s death as yet… justice is yet to be seen.”