2004 Redfern riots

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Redfern Riots
Location Australia
Caused by Death of Thomas Hickey
Methods Molotov Cocktails, Fireworks, Bottles and Rocks.
Parties to the civil conflict
Aborigines, Aboriginal Gangs
Redfern Police, New South Wales Police
Death(s) 1
Injuries 40+ Police Injured One severely injured after being hit in the head With a Brick.
Fireworks being shot at police during the riot

The 2004 Redfern riots took place on the evening of Saturday the 14 February 2004, in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern, New South Wales, sparked by the death of a young man named Thomas Hickey.

Thomas Hickey's death[edit]

The circumstances surrounding Thomas 'T.J.' Hickey's death are disputed. The 17-year-old Indigenous Australian was riding his bicycle down hill without brakes as a police vehicle was patrolling the nearby area. According to police, he collided with a protruding gutter and was flung into the air and impaled in a 2.5-metre high fence outside a block of units off Phillip street Waterloo, causing penetrating injuries of the neck and chest.[1] Police officers at the scene administered first aid until NSW Ambulance officers arrived. Hickey was transported from the scene to the Sydney Children's Hospital in a critical but stable condition. He died with his family by his side on 15 February 2004 due to the severity of his wounds.

According to police, they arrived at the scene quickly, but were unable to save him as "the injury was probably non-survivable."[1] There was an outstanding arrest warrant in his name, but police have consistently maintained that the patrol car was searching for a different individual, wanted in connection with a violent bag snatch at Redfern railway station earlier the same day.[2]

The Hickey family and supporters fiercely dispute this version of events, claiming that witnesses saw Hickey's bike clipped by the police car, thus propelling him onto the fence. This claim was supported by the testimony of two Aboriginal Liaison Officers to a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the death,[3] though neither of the Officers were present at the scene. Despite calls to re-open the coronial inquest, the New South Wales government has refused to do so.[3]

Doubt remains over the veracity of the evidence presented during the case. One of the Aboriginal Police Liaison Officers who gave testimony for the Hickey family, Paul James Wilkinson,[4] later admitted to the murder of his pregnant girlfriend five months prior to making his allegations.[5] Wilkinson pleaded guilty to murder on 13 November 2008, judged as being 'well-versed in deception and motivated by self-interest' when receiving a 28-year custodial sentence.[6]


On the evening of the 15th of February, Aboriginal youths gathered from across Sydney to the Redfern area, and when police closed the Eveleigh Street entrance to the station, the crowd became violent and began to throw bottles, bricks, live fireworks and Molotov cocktails. The violence escalated into a full-scale riot around The Block, during which Redfern railway station was briefly alight, suffering superficial damage. The riot continued into the early morning, until police used fire brigade water hoses to disperse the crowd. Total damages include a torched car (previously stolen from a western suburb), and 40 injured police officers.


A memorial service was held on 19 February 2004 in Redfern, and in Walgett, New South Wales (Hickey's hometown), on 22 February 2004.[1]

In 2005, the University of Technology Sydney's students' association donated a plaque with TJ's portrait, with an inscription that read: "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." Local police, the NSW government and the Department of Housing have refused to allow the plaque to be placed on the wall below the fence where Hickey was impaled unless the words "police pursuit" were changed to "tragic accident", which the family has refused to do.[7]

The Hickey's parents, Gail and Ian Hickey, divorced in late 2006. Hickey supporters also claim that police have continued to harass the family, including the arrest of several family members and friends on 4 September 2010.


The 2013 film Around the Block focuses partly on the riots.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Abernethy, J: Report by the NSW State Coroner into deaths in custody/police operations 2004, page 71. ISSN 1323-6423.
  2. ^ Karla Grant, Matthew Benns. "Little girl lost in a racial storm". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  3. ^ a b "Commemoration of Death of T. J. Hickey". Lee Rhiannon MLC. 18 May 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2011. 
  4. ^ Jackson, R. "'Inquiry into Issues Relating to Redfern/Waterloo - Submission No 91, page 4." (PDF). 
  5. ^ "Paul James Wilkinson admits to killing lover Kylie Labouchardiere". Daily Telegraph. 24 November 2008. Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  6. ^ "Paul Wilkinson ineligible for parole until April 2031 for murdering girlfriend". The Australian Newspaper. 22 May 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  7. ^ "Rallies demand truth about TJ Hickey's death". Green Left Weekly. 23 February 2005. Retrieved 24 January 2011. 

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