15 years after the tragic murder of Kamilaroi 17-year-old TJ Hickey, activists rallied against the state-sanctioned violence that resulted in his death.
On 14 January 2004 after being arbitrarily pursued by a police vehicle, TJ was rammed by the vehicle onto a spiked fence. He passed away the following day at the Royal Randwick Children’s Hospital.
Approximately 70 community members and broader activists began the march in TJ Hickey Park in the heart of Waterloo, before continuing through Redfern police station.
Protesters demanded a parliamentary inquiry into this gross miscarriage of justice, and a remedy to the oppressive social systems that continue to perpetuate mental health crises amongst First Nations communities. Greens MPs David Shoebridge and Jenny Leong promised to bring about a concrete inquiry into Hickey’s murder post-election.
The brutality of his death was underscored by accusations of corruption within the police. The Hickey family claim that a police rescue vehicle was sent away, and that the arrival of the ambulance was intentionally delayed. Constable Hollingsworth, the officer at the scene, also refused to give evidence at an initial inquiry on the grounds that he would be incriminated.
15 years on, calls to hold police accountable continue to unite the community, with passionate chants of “they say accident we say murder” and “too many coppers, not enough justice.”
A minute of silence was held multiple times: at the memorial in TJ Hickey Park, in front of Redfern police station and outside Parliament House.
“We’re not going anywhere until there is justice for TJ and all other victims of state-sanctioned violence,” rally leaders said. Many in the community fear that for young indigenous people to be held in custody is effectively a “death sentence.” This sentiment was echoed by Greens MP for Newtown, Jenny Leong. “We need to stop cops investigating cops,” she said.
407 Indigenous deaths in custody have occurred since the previous Royal Commission in 1991. Activists claim that police investigations and prosecutions into such deaths have not occurred.
The rally was flanked by a heavy police presence, with police numbers matching at least half the amount of protesters at any given time. The total police presence outnumbered the protestors as they were stationed at every point in the march. A senior FIRE activist said that this was a regular occurrence at Indigenous rallies, especially given the calls for justice against police violence.
“Our people carry more trauma than anyone else in this continent,” said community activist Raymond ‘Bubbly’ Weatherall.
A petition to reopen an inquiry into Hickey’s murder with 12,000 signatures was handed to David Shoebridge and Jenny Leong at Parliament House.