TJ Hickey Memorial could be closer to reality

A rally for justice for TJ Hickey, in Redfern earlier this year.
Friday, July 1, 2016

Police victim TJ Hickey could be closer to receiving a much sought after memorial.

Brad Hazzard, NSW Minister for Family and Community Services and Social Housing, has told TJ's mother, Aunty Gail Hickey, he is sympathetic to the family's need for healing and would like to see the issue of a permanent memorial resolved.

Aunty Gail, together with family and friends from the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) met with Hazzard in his office on June 8, to discuss concerns that the “TJ Hickey Park” sign in the small park in Waterloo where TJ suffered fatal injuries, might be removed. Apparently, an unidentified group of local residents objected to that sign.

Hazzard assured Aunty Gail that there were no immediate plans to remove the sign, but noted that longer term redevelopment plans for the Waterloo area had to be taken into account. In the context of that redevelopment, Hazzard said he would like to have a conversation about how a permanent memorial could be factored into any planning decisions.

What the Hickey family has always wanted is a sign fixed to the fence on which TJ was impaled. A plaque for that purpose was donated to the family by Aboriginal students from UTS. The plaque reads: “On the 14th February 2004, TJ Hickey, aged 17, was impaled upon the metal fence above, arising from a police pursuit. The young man died as a result of his wounds the next day. In our hearts you will stay TJ.”

This is what the family wants, but NSW Police objected to the sign and put pressure on the Department of Housing — who are responsible for the property where the incident happened — to not allow the family this memorial.

Feelings still run deep over police involvement in TJ's death. Community outrage at the time was immediate and the subsequent investigation was unsatisfactory to say the least.

Each February, on the anniversary of TJ's death, the community rallies in support of the family's continuing struggle for justice and healing. At those rallies, police antipathy is manifest.

Hazzard was shown the UTS plaque and photographs of the park and sign presently in place. He said that he would like to see the site for himself and asked Aunty Gail if he could meet her there. It is understood that meeting is to take place on August 16.

The site has become a place of reverence, not just for the Hickey family, but to all Aboriginal people. It has become a significant place where locals and non-locals gather, seeking healing from the effects of racism, dispossession and injustice.

The latest plan of the state government to destroy the Waterloo housing complex — which houses more than 4000 people — to build luxury units, has created a new problem for the TJ memorial. However, the campaign to defend Waterloo has improved the possibility of saving the TJ Memorial site; both campaigns have committed to supporting each other.

ISJA, while holding TJ close to its heart, has supported the Housing Commission in Waterloo since its formation.

An Aboriginal Tent Embassy has been started at Waterloo Green, which is sure to become a stronghold of the struggle to defend public housing.

For now, Aunty Gail is relieved that there will be no action taken to remove the existing sign. It is hoped the minister will now push for a fitting permanent resolution, but the Hickey family have been offered false hope before. Many will follow this issue with interest and will not rest until TJ receives the justice and memorial he deserves.

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