TJ Hickey: The fight continues 14 years later
Content warnings: police brutality, racial discrimination
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article contains images of people who have died.
Yesterday, hundreds of protesters marched through Sydney’s CBD to mark the 14th anniversary of an Indigenous teenager’s death.
Thomas ‘TJ’ Hickey, a young Kamilaroi boy, was riding his bicycle in Waterloo on February 14, 2004, when a police car driven by Constable Michael Hollingsworth began to pursue him. On the corner of Phillip and George Streets, the police vehicle hit the bicycle and TJ was impaled on a spiked fence.
Against all police protocols governing these types of situations, Hollingsworth pulled TJ from the fence. When the police rescue vehicle came, Hollingsworth sent it away, also against police protocol. After an extended period of time, an ambulance came and took TJ to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, where he died the next day. A coronial inquest was completed over a number of months that included mistakes and omissions. The coroner eventually declared TJ’s death to have been a “freak accident” and cleared all the police involved of any wrongdoing.
The Hickey family has never accepted this finding. For 14 years, TJ’s mother and his family, along with support from the Indigenous Social Justice Association, and the wider community, have been campaigning for justice on the day of his death.
The rally was organised to march and demand: the immediate construction of the TJ memorial in Waterloo to be built before Waterloo’s redevelopment, a parliamentary inquiry capable of correcting the wrongs of the original coronial inquest, and an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody.
The protest began on the corner of Phillip and George Streets, first moving to the Redfern police station, and then down to Parliament House. Despite the protest being peaceful, it was met with significant police attention, including mounted police and fire brigades to control foot traffic.
The CBD was filled with the chants of people calling for justice, including “They say accident, we say murder,” and “No justice, no peace, just racist police”.
Raul Assi, who was leading the march, reiterated in his speech, “We [will] keep marching here [Parliament house] every year, and we won’t stop till justice is done.”
The refusal by successive NSW governments to bring the police officers responsible to court – and finally allow TJ’s family closure – is testament to the endemic racism First Nations people continue to endure.