An Aboriginal prisoner has died after brawling with five guards

The dead man's sister posted this picture of his artwork on Facebook..jpg

An Aboriginal prisoner injured in a brawl with prison guards has died in an Adelaide hospital. His cause of death and details about the medical emergency he suffered during the altercation on Friday have been withheld. An Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement is calling for an independent investigation. The 29-year-old father of a daughter, Wayne Morrison, who was 1.52 metres tall, was taken to hospital in a critical condition after the brawl with five prison guards.


His sister, Toya Aroha, said her brother, who was braindead, was "just too sick" to fight on. "He went in peace surrounded by us. I will never forget that moment." She says the death has left the family “broken”. 

Cheryl Axleby, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM), said ALRM was notified of two incidents. Matthew Morrison, brother of the deceased, posted on Facebook last week Wayne’s “first time in prison is likely to be his last” after being “bashed and left to die”.

“He was never violent let alone a criminal and has never been in trouble or locked up,” he said. His sister said when she saw him in hospital he had bruises all over him from police restraining him.

Major crime detectives are investigating the death of Morrison, who was on remand and was being prepared for a court appearance by video link. 

The opposition Greens party has joined the call for an inquiry. Their Senator Hanson-Young says the case is tragic and demands more than a police investigation.

"What we need is a rigorous independent investigation to get to the bottom of exactly what happened here," she said.

Aroha told The Australian newspaper, “He has a young daughter who will now grow up without a dad, nephews who will grow up without their uncle Wayne and an entire family that will grow up without their cousin, nephew, brother and son.”


Two of the five guards suffered facial injuries including jaw ractures, a woman having her nose broken, but all five were released from the hospital. Professional counselling has been given to the guards.


Documents released by the courts show Morrison was to be tried on charges of rape, serious criminal trespass and assault. He was refused bail and remanded in custody about a week before the fatal altercation. 


It is understood Mr Morrison was involved in the brawl with the guards at about 11.30am on Friday and soon thereafter there was a “medical emergency” involving the prisoner. Before the altercation, he was about to apply for home detention bail to live with his mother.


Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement chief executive Cheryl Axelby said the family were told there was a medical incident in the early afternoon but were left in the dark about the alleged assault until 9.20pm — 10 hours after it occurred.


“That information wasn’t shared at the earliest opportunity and nor was information shared with the family at any time during that day,” she said. “What is telling is that when Correctional Services did their media conference (on Saturday), there was a lack information provided about the health and wellbeing of Mr Morrison.


“The focus was more on the medical assistance provided to the officers. Why was Mr Morrison not afforded the same immediate medical assistance at the time of the first incident?”


ALRM deputy chair Tauto Sansbury said it was the first time Mr Morrison had ever been locked up in an institution. “For this to occur, this is totally unacceptable — for the family, for the community and for the organisations that represent people in custody,” he said.


Morrison’s relative Matthew Morrison called on Facebook for those responsible to be held accountable for their actions.


“It is essential that strong examples be made, both to ensure that this will never happen again, and to act as a deterrent to those who would abuse positions of trust,” he said.


“This is 2016! It’s been 25 years since The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, but the situation seem to be getting progressively worse, not better.


“It therefore seems ever more pressing these matters be revisited once again, to bring about real, positive change, and to ensure that such events do not continue to reoccur with the same dismal predictability that they do now.”


Major Crime Detectives are assisting with the investigation into Mr Morrison’s death and a report will be prepared for the Coroner.


He was waiting ahead of a video link appearance at Elizabeth Magistrates Court when the fight erupted. An Aboriginal legal rights group has called for an independent inquiry, amid claims he received inadequate medical treatment.


Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement deputy chair Tauto Sansbury said the family deserved the full truth.


“The next step is we are going to meet with the family and discuss what exactly happen because now it’s a death in custody,” he said.


“We want the whole truth, nothing but the truth, that would be only appropriate for the family and the Aboriginal community.” He said Aboriginal deaths in custody had become “a regular occurrence”.


Correctional Services Minister Peter Malinauskas said he would “refute” any “conspiracies of any cover-up” between the Correctional Services Department and SA Police.


Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody 25 years ago, which was conducted to combat an over-representation, there have been nearly 370 more, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology. Thirty-one of them have occurred in South Australia.


There are still calls for most of the recommendations of the commission to be implemented. 


Mick Gooda, the Indigenous Social Justice Commissioner, told indigenous television NITV on the 25th anniversary of the commission in April: "The formula’s there to stop it [Indigenous deaths in custody]. I don’t know if the political will is. Almost every death that occurred in custody after the Royal Commission recommendations, invoked the non-implementation of at least one recommendation."