Yatala Labour Prison Incident

Legislative Council
Wednesday 28th of SEPTEMBER 2016

Yatala Labour Prison Incident

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:47 :07): I rise to call for an independent investigation into the assault and consequent death of the inmate at Yatala. As we are all well aware, Mr Morrison was an Aboriginal man who has died in custody in the South Australian system in this past week. As we are also aware, it is well over a quarter of a century ago that the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody investigated this issue and made so many recommendations that have not been taken up.

I want to rise today to talk about this issue because I think that in this day and age we do need an independent investigation into this particular incident. This was a man who was 29 years of age, who was a fisherman, who was a father, who was an artist and who died without ever having been convicted of a crime.

The ALRM has issued a press release, which I am sure many members are aware of, calling for an independent investigation. I think a light needs to be shone upon this issue, as it does into this chamber. This is a serious issue, and while I think we have heard some sides of the story, we have not heard the side of the story from the man's family. Indeed, they have taken to social media, raising some quite serious concerns. The ALRM has reported that it was a significant period of time before they were even informed of this situation and that, indeed, there were two critical incidents, rather than simply one.

They have called for action and an independent inquiry because they have many concerns about just what went on in this past week in Yatala prison. This man ended up dead when he was in the custody of our state. His sister posted on social media that he has bruises all over him. We do know that while he was facing a charge, he had not been convicted of any crime.

We also know that the family has called for an independent investigation and I think with good reason. There are discrepancies between the stories, there are discrepancies as to whether there were one or two critical incidents. There was certainly no access by the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme or anyone who could ensure that this man received immediate medical treatment. We need to ensure that we have all sides of the story told in this particular matter.

There is a man who has been put in a prison, who was never convicted of a crime, who is now dead, who will never get to tell his story. He deserves his story to be told, and the only way I think that can happen is through an independent investigation. While, of course, it is right and proper that SAPOL investigates this, and that indeed the Coroner investigates this, I think the community trust will only be restored if there is also an independent investigation. That investigation needs to have full access to any CCTV footage and to all relevant materials, as well as the ability for those who support this man to tell their stories.

While I have enormous sympathy for those workers who were injured in this case, they will be legally represented and they live to tell their stories, their stories will be heard. The words of Mr Morrison will never be heard in this case, but the evidence should be put forward and should be put forward in an independent way. There is a young girl who now has no father, there is a family left without a sibling. The family is rightly concerned that due processes were not followed; they were denied appropriate access to him in the hospital situation, and they have gone to both media and social media to raise those concerns, which I think warrant an independent investigation.

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