2004 Redfern riots

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Redfern Riots
Sydney, Australia
Caused byDeath of Thomas Hickey
MethodsMolotov cocktails, fireworks, bottles, and rocks.
Parties to the civil conflict
Local Aboriginal people
Redfern Police, New South Wales Police
Injuries40+ Police injured (one severely injured after being hit in the head with a brick)[citation needed]
Fireworks being shot at police during the riot

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

Thomas Hickey's death[edit]

The circumstances surrounding Thomas 'T.J.' Hickey's death are disputed. On the morning of Saturday 14 February 2004, the 17-year-old Indigenous Australian was riding his bicycle down hill 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 on a 1.2 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. Thomas Hickey passed away with his family by his side early on 15 February 2004.

A large proportion of the inquest centered on whether police were "pursuing" Mr Hickey, or "following" him. At the conclusion of the inquest, NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney was interviewed on ABC radio and gave this explanation of the distinction: "I think if you were to ask the person on the street the definition between, and not a Concise Oxford Dictionary definition, but if you were to ask somebody their interpretation of being followed and being pursued I think they are two distinct and clear actions. Being followed, I think, in the ordinary layman's mind, creates a particular picture. Being pursued by police creates a completely different picture and clearly there was no evidence that Mr Hickey was being pursued in the normal definition of that word."

Moroney supported the driver of the police truck, Senior Constable Michael Hollingsworth, in his refusal to give evidence. Both maintained this was a "normal civilian right".[2]

According to police, they arrived at the scene quickly with Constables Hollingsworth and Reynolds arriving a few minutes after the first police vehicle. Unfortunately efforts to render First Aid 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.[3]

The Hickey family and supporters 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,[4] 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.[4]


On the evening of 15 February, Aboriginal and non indigenous youths and adults, most of them from the Block, the Waterloo estate and other inner city housing precincts gathered at Eveleigh Street quickly after the word of the death spread. Persons were seen preparing petrol bombs and stockpiling bricks, resulting in police closing the Eveleigh Street entrance to the station, which turned the crowd violent and they 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, and 40 injured police officers. Injuries among police officers was increased due to the removal of riot gear from NSW police vehicles in the city area resulting in WORKCOVER fining the NSW Police $380,000.


A memorial service was held on 19 February 2004 in Redfern, and in Walgett, New South Wales (Hickey's hometown), on 22 February 2004.[5]

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.[6]

Hickey's parents, Gail and Ian Hickey, divorced in late 2006.

Hickey supporters claim that police have continued to harass the family, including the arrest of several family members and friends on 4 September 2010.

Senior Constable Michael Hollingsworth was again promoted and awarded the National Police Medal and Diligent and Ethical Service Medal. Senior Constable Hollingsworth arrested and charged Joey Hickey (uncle of TJ) for an armed robbery at the National Australia Bank in Wollongong late 2001 - Hickey was convicted. He also arrested, charged and applied for an apprehended violence order against Lyall Munro for domestic assault against his Aboriginal wife. Munro is an active protester seeking to have the Coroner's inquest reopened. Senior Constable Hollingsworth served 11 years at Redfern Police. Former Plain Clothes Sergeant Michael Hollingsworth passed away from cancer on 28 October 2018.


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. ^ Freedom Socialist Bulletin, by Ray Jackson: ABC Radio PM Tuesday 17 August
  3. ^ Karla Grant, Matthew Benns. "Little girl lost in a racial storm". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 22 March 2004.
  4. ^ a b "Commemoration of Death of T. J. Hickey". Lee Rhiannon MLC. 18 May 2009. Archived from the original on 27 November 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  5. ^ "Sydney mourns Aboriginal teen". BBC News. 19 February 2004. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  6. ^ "Rallies demand truth about TJ Hickey's death". Green Left Weekly. 23 February 2005. Retrieved 24 January 2011.

External links[edit]