February 14, 2024 will mark the 20th anniversary of the death in custody of Thomas (TJ) Hickey, a 17- year-old Gamilaraay boy who was being chased by two police paddy wagons through Redfern when he was thrown from his push bike and impaled on a fence.
TJ's mother, Gail Hickey, backed by the movement campaigning to stop deaths in custody, has been fighting for truth and justice for two decades.
The Indigenous Social Justice Association — Melbourne, which formed in the lead up to the first anniversary of TJ's death, is holding a speak-out at the Victorian State Library at noon on 17 February, 2024.
Co-organiser of the event, Cheryl Kaulfuss, said the action, which is being organised with the support of Gail Hickey, will be an important opportunity to honour the memory of TJ Hickey and also to show solidarity with the many families who have lost a loved one in police and prison custody.
"We demand justice for TJ and all who have died in police and prison custody," she said.
Alison Thorne, also from the Indigenous Social Justice Association, said TJ's death highlights that there are inadequate mechanisms to hold police accountable.
"We demand an end to the practice of police investigating police. What's needed is the establishment of independent bodies, with real powers, to control the police and for these bodies to be directly accountable to the community," she said.
Ms Hickey, the family and their supporters are fighting for a permanent memorial to TJ that reflects what actually happened.
Ms Kaulfuss said the family was gifted a memorial plaque for display at the site where TJ was impaled during a police pursuit, authorities will not let the plaque go up unless the wording is changed to remove all reference to the police and to present the death as a tragic accident.
"This obfuscation of what happened is completely unacceptable to Gail Hickey and we support her fight to have the plaque displayed publicly with its original wording," she said.
The speak-out will also demand that all 339 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody be implemented in full.
Ms Thorne noted that it is disgraceful that almost three and a half decades after they were released that "these vital recommendations have still not be implemented in full".
The landmark report of the Royal Commission found that over-incarceration of First Nations people was the key factor contributing to the shockingly high rates of Indigenous deaths in custody.
Racial profiling and over policing contributes directly to growing First Nations imprisonment.
Ms Thorne said TJ was racially profiled when he was wrongly chased by police, who were looking for another person suspected of bag snatching.
Remembering TJ Hickey — Twenty years and still no justice
Melbourne speak out against First Nations deaths in custody
Noon, Saturday 17 February,
State Library, Victoria on Swanston Street.
Organised by the Indigenous Social Justice Association — Melbourne
with the support of TJ's mother, Gail Hickey.