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Family seeks justice 20 years after TJ Hickey's death

Maeve Bannister -

Twenty years after her only son's death, Gail Hickey says it is heartbreaking that his family and community are still seeking resolution.

Indigenous teenager Thomas "TJ" Hickey died on Valentine's Day in 2004 after an interaction with NSW Police.

The 17-year-old was thrown off his bike and impaled on a fence, an incident which sparked riots in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern.

TJ's family and other members of the Indigenous community blame police for chasing the teenager to his death, but an inquest later cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing.

On Wednesday, about 100 people joined a march from the site of TJ's death through the streets of Redfern, accompanied by police who closed the area to traffic.

"I never would have thought I would have to stand here and fight for my son for 20 years," Ms Hickey told AAP.

"It's really heartbreaking that I've got to come back every year to march.

"But we all need to stand together and fight for justice."

Advocates are calling on the council to rename the Redfern Community Centre the "TJ Hickey Centre" as a small act for his family.

They also want a permanent plaque placed at the site of his death.

"We know that our protests are working and we're calling on people to keep the fire burning," Rachel Evans, who participated in Wednesday's march, said.

"The system ultimately needs to be held to account."

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties said TJ was one of hundreds of Indigenous men, women and children who have died in interactions with law enforcement.

"TJ's death is a painful reminder that there is an urgent need for justice and accountability," council president Lydia Shelly said.

"The lack of clarity and accountability surrounding TJ's death underscores systemic issues within our justice system and heightens concerns regarding law enforcement actions.

"NSW has the highest rates of deaths in custody in Australia and we cannot walk the path towards true reconciliation if we are unable to face this shameful truth."

There were 110 deaths in police and prison custody in 2022/23, 28 per cent of which were Indigenous people.

Maeve Bannister - AAP

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