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Speech: Summary Offences (Custody Notification Service) Amendment Bill 2020

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:02): I rise to support the second reading of this bill, put before the chamber by the Hon. Kyam Maher, for a custody notification service. I do so noting that the Greens also have a bill before the parliament for a custody notification service and, prior to that, had called on this chamber for urgent action on this matter and on all of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. That royal commission reported in 1991 and here we are, in 2020, being one of the last jurisdictions to actually legislate for a custody notification service.

What a custody notification service will provide is that, where an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person is placed in custody in this state, they will receive both a welfare check—and in New South Wales it is a call that says, 'Are you okay?' or a visit that says, 'Are you okay?'—as well as legal support and advice.

We know that that was a recommendation of the royal commission because of a particular case and particular situations that were systemic that showed Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people placed into custody often have underlying health conditions, often face extreme anxiety and may well need an interpreter. Certainly, we know that in New South Wales, which did take up very early on the option of a custody notification service, it saved lives. In fact, following the implementation of that there was only one death in custody in this situation in New South Wales, which actually occurred only because the CNS was not followed.

A CNS has been proven statistically to save the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people placed in custody. In South Australia, we have not had such a service. We have had the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme, which is not enforceable, and we have also seen a significant number of deaths in custody where it is often pointed to that perhaps had a CNS been in place we would not be seeing those families grieve the loss of their loved one, we would not have seen deaths in custody, we would not be seeing cases years on awaiting their time before the Coroner's Court or, as in the case of Wayne Fella Morrison, years into a Coroner's inquest.

I noted in my speech to the Greens' bill that in the case of Wayne Fella Morrison he was not afforded access to the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme, let alone a custody notification service. We know that we do not know what happened to him. We know he had never been placed in custody before, though. We know that somehow he ended up not in the remand centre but in Yatala. As a member who served on the select committee into overcrowding in prisons, I have seen where he ended up in those first hours in custody, in the most what you would call Victorian prison environment, with everything that you would picture of the most horrific and frightening environment: cement floors, steel doors and no windows. It must have been incredibly frightening for that man to be placed in that environment.

We know that he died due to medical issues, and we also know a range of really concerning things: that the corrections officers refused to cooperate with the police investigation; that the corrections officers colluded in the hours after Wayne Morrison's death; that the family were not told what was going on; that the family, when they presented to the hospital, to the RAH, where he was taken, were lied to and told he was not there; that the family, particularly Latoya, sat on the steps of this parliament in the hours after her brother's death, grieving and mourning. She is still, so many years later, without answers as to what happened in those hours that her brother was taken into custody, having never been in custody before, and in the very short days that followed: how he ends up on life support, unresponsive, covered in bruises, in the Royal Adelaide Hospital and then dies.

I cannot fathom the information that was provided to us by Cheryl from the ALRM, and also Change the Record, in the briefing that the Hon. Kyam Maher presented and provided to members of this place: that there have been some eight deaths in custody in five years in South Australia, according to their calculations. I know that PASA is calling for a different way to calculate deaths, but I have to say if the ALRM and Change the Record are telling me that there were eight deaths in five years and I can point to at least two, probably three, where a CNS would have saved that life, then what on earth are we doing in terms of being so slow to legislate?

I will point out the hypocrisy, though, that the Weatherill government was offered funding for three years of a CNS when the Hon. Kyam Maher was a minister of the Crown and that the Weatherill government did not take up that offer. I understand that that financial offer, from previous minister Nigel Scullion but now the current federal government, is still on the table.

I understand from media reports and communications that the Marshall government will legislate for a CNS, so this bill may indeed be redundant. We will support it today, but I say that we will support the second reading because the Greens have some amendments that go to the very reason the AVS, the Aboriginal Visitor Scheme, has not worked—which is that it needs to be transparent, accountable and enforceable.

We will know that when members of what will be the custody notification service turn up to a police station they will not be told they cannot use a mobile phone to take photos of somebody's bruises, as they are currently told; they will not be told they are not allowed to enter the police station due to COVID, as they are currently told; they will not be denied access to where a particular person in custody currently is in the system because they have been moved several times, as currently occurs; and they will have the power, should any of those things occur, should their work be stymied or stifled by the system, to ensure that those who take the person into custody and who deny that access to the custody notification service will face penalties.

As citizens we have rights and responsibilities, and we afford those who place people in custody, in detention, in this state significant rights and responsibilities. They have significant power over people's lives, and they should be accountable—and when we make them accountable there should be penalties, because lives are on the line.

In the last few hours I have received lots of messages, and I have to commend the work of Black Lives Matter because it was largely the impetus of that rally and the worldwide movement that has finally seen the royal commission's recommendations put back on the table for discussion. We know that the Closing the Gap updated report will soon continue that momentum, and we know there is another rally on 4 July. The numbers may not be as strong in the streets, but I hope the political will continues.

As Latoya Rule posted on her Facebook page in the last half-hour, her grief will not be erased, her brother will not be brought back. She posted a salient point:

Do governments make apologies when they implement services like the CNS into South Australia for the lives that were lost due to their inaction in previous years or will they be celebrated for their 'achievements' #longoverdue

I am so sorry that we failed that family and so many other families who have had a death in custody in our state because we did not implement the recommendations of the royal commission.

This is one lifesaving measure that must be implemented. I hope the government gets on and does it quickly, and I hope that this parliament today passes a piece of legislation that has enforceability and accountability.

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