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17 years on, activists continue to demand justice for TJ Hickey

The protest called for an independent body to investigate Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Photo courtesy of ISJA

For the 17th year in a row, activists gathered in Waterloo to mourn the death of Indigenous boy Thomas “TJ” Hickey and to continue their demand for justice.

On the anniversary of TJ’s death, a group of around 100 protestors marched from TJ Hickey Park in Waterloo to Redfern police station with banners which read “Justice Now! Re-open the TJ Hickey Inquest.”

The 17-year-old TJ Hickey died on the 14th February 2004, while fleeing a police patrol car on his bicycle. While riding away, he hit a curb, flew off his bicycle and was impaled on a nearby fence. Rather than wait for the ambulance to arrive, the two officers pursuing Hickey removed him from the fence and tried to deliver first aid. TJ died in hospital the next morning, sparking the 2004 Redfern Riots.

Every year, a march for justice is held in front of the fence on which TJ was impaled. This year’s march was organised by the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA). A small police presence followed the march, but hung back during the speeches before it.

Among the speakers at the march were TJ’s mother Gail Hickey, his cousin Keenan Mundine and local Newtown Member of Parliament Jenny Leong.

Gail Hickey broke down in tears after starting her speech and accused the local police of murdering her son. Keenan Mundine similarly broke down, criticising the police for not apologising to the family and demanded an independent body be established to investigate Aboriginal deaths in custody. Although a petition to reopen TJ’s coronial inquest in 2019 attracted around 12,000 signatures, nothing has yet been done.

Greens MP Jenny Leong claimed the police were “responsible for the death and murder of TJ Hickey” and that it was “unacceptable” that no police officer has ever been held accountable for TJ’s death or any other indigenous death in custody.

The police deny any wrongdoing and claim they did not chase TJ, but rather followed him. The coronial inquest at the time, as well as then Prime Minister John Howard and NSW Labor Premier Bob Carr, agreed with this viewpoint.

However, the assertion that TJ was followed is at odds with the fact that the police car mounted the curb and drove onto a pedestrian footpath, a fact which both officers neglected to write in the original post-incident report.

TJ’s family and the ISJA have vowed to keep fighting for justice, no matter how long it takes.