International Justice for TJ Day – 14 February 2010

Banner - In Remembrance of TJ Hickey and...

At Fitzroy Town Hall


As the 6th anniversary of her son’s death approached, Gail Hickey sent this message to supporters, to ‘Deaths in Custody activists and justice campaigners’ calling for 14 February 2010 to be observed as International Justice for TJ Day:

Dear campaigners for justice

The 14th of February 2010 will be the 6th anniversary of the day my beloved son, Thomas “TJ” Hickey was impaled on a fence while being chased by Redfern Police.

And while the family grieves, the so-called Australian justice system has failed us miserably.

There is no doubt in my mind, and amongst many others in the Redfern Indigenous community and beyond, that the police killed TJ.

However, an internal police investigation was inherently incapable of finding the truth. It provided no incentive for vulnerable and threatened witnesses to come forward. The riot in response to my son’s death is a clear indication of the despair and lack of trust felt by our people of the State’s capacity to provide justice to us.

There was a similar response amongst the Palm Island community after the death in custody of Mulrunji.

There has still been no proper investigation independent of the police and government and I no longer believe that we can get to the truth within the Australian jurisdiction.

I am therefore seeking international remedies.

Under International Law, the State must ensure that deaths where police involvement is suspected are investigated by an independent civilian agency. Australia is currently in breach of its international obligations to ensure police are independently investigated.

In April 2009 the UN’s Human Rights Committee expressed concern about the excessive use of force by police against young people, Aboriginal Australians, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities. It also criticised the fact that investigations of police misconduct are carried out by the police themselves.

On 14 February 2010 I will lodge a complaint with this committee seeking findings that Australia is in breach of its human rights obligations in failing to independently investigate TJ Hickey’s death.

The failure to independently investigate deaths in custody is just one of Australia’s many human rights failings. The shameful intervention into North Territory Aboriginal communities and the back to the mission days welfare quarantining measures are another.

I therefore fully support the National Day of Action on 13 February against the NT Intervention.

I am calling for 14 February 2010 to be observed as International Justice for TJ Day.

I appeal for Deaths in Custody activists and justice campaigners to organise actions in their local areas on 14 February 2010.

Such actions will:
Remember TJ and honour his life
Insist that the police be held to account
Publicise the lodgement of my complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee
Demand the full implementation of all recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
Build the on-going struggle to stop all Aboriginal deaths in custody and remember those who have died at the hands of the racist state, particularly in the last 6-years.
Until we have justice, there can be no peace.

Gail Hickey

Answering this call, the Indigenous Social Justice Association – Melbourne (ISJA-Melb) organised a rally at Fitzroy Town Hall attended by over 40 supporters, followed by a march to the local police station. Speakers included Talgium Edwards, a member of the stolen generation ‘with a long history of run-ins with police’ going back to the 50s, who said he was left alone pretty much now, but was determined to go on struggling until Aboriginal people got the respect they are entitled to. On the subject of police, he believed that many start off with good intentions, but were ‘locked out’ if they didn’t conform to the existing culture, and so ended up just like the rest:

Talgium Edwards speaking

Talgium Edwards at Fitzroy Town Hall.

Cheryl Kaulfuss spoke on behalf of ISJA, of which she is a founding member. She described the events leading up to TJ’s death and the present situation in Redfern, where there is no let-up to harassment of Aboriginal people. “Developers want Redfern.”

Cheryl Kaulfuss speaking at Fitzroy Town Hall

Cheryl Kaulfuss speaking at Fitzroy Town Hall

(Later, outside the police station, Debbie Brennan of the Freedom Socialist Party told how on a recent visit to Redfern she visited the site of TJ’s death and found that the police had removed every trace of the event – the fence had been repainted, the memorials had been taken away.)

Vicki Roach speaking at Fitzroy Town Hall

Vicki Roach speaking at Fitzroy Town Hall

Another speaker was Vicki Roach, also a member of the stolen generations, long-term campaigner for prisoner rights, and mother of a son called TJ. She told how she had visited Gail Hickey and followed the path taken by TJ on the day, to the place ‘where all his little blood was spilt.’ Describing the situation in Redfern, she also stressed that nothing had changed, with police still chasing kids in their cars, and the number of deaths in custody still rising. She passed on a message from Gail: “Tell them I thank them for their support.”

Frank Guivarra speaking

Frank Guivarra

Frank Guivarra, CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) paid his respects to TJ ‘and all others who have passed away at the hands of the authorities’. The Australian system did not favour justice for Aboriginal families, and as to claims there is no racism in the police force, there were also fairies at the bottom of the garden…

Marching to the police station

The gathering observed a minute’s silence before marching to the Fitzroy Police Station, to a chant of ‘We support out sister Gail, Justice for TJ, we must not fail.’

Sharon Firebrace at the police station

Sharon Firebrace at the police station

Sharon Firebrace of the Black Rights Action Group asked the question ‘What do you do if you can’t get justice’, given that the system has so obviously failed. She also highlighted he role, or rather the failure, of the media in not covering the real issues. [There was a striking absence of mainstream media at this event, and yesterday's NT intervention protest was hardly better.] There was a denial of Aboriginal history going back to the claims of ‘terra nullius’, and whereas Indian students in Melbourne,the targets of racism, are being stabbed, Aboriginal people have been hanged … There must be a treaty, to establish the fact of the existence and survival of Aboriginal people.

“Until we have justice, there can be no peace.”

Sunday’s rally was MC’d jointly by Alison Thorne of ISJA and Karen Minnicone, and was endorsed by a range of groups and organisations including Alliance
for Aboriginal Rights, Anarchist Black Cross, ANTaR Vic, Black Rights Action Group, Community Radio 3CR, Copwatch – Melbourne, Deaths in Custody Watch
Committee of Western Australia, Federation of Community Legal Centres, Flemington Kensington Community Legal Service, Freedom Socialist Party, 3 KND, Latin American Solidarity Network (LASNET), Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Radical Women, Radio 4K1G Townsville, Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative, Solidarity and Stop the Intervention Collective – Sydney.

February 14 was also the first anniversary of the death of rights campaigner Letty Marie Scott (nee Gibson) Nupanunga, whose husband Douglas was found hanged in a cell in Darwin’s Berrimah jail on July 5, 1985. (See Green Left Weekly #785 4 March 2009)

National Day of Protest against the NT Intervention – 13 February 2010

Placard condemning the intervention

Placard outside MAYSAR

The 2nd anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generation saw protests in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Alice Springs against the continuing discrimination against Aboriginal People epitomised by the invasion of the Northern Territory under the name of ‘intervention’. Around 300 turned out in Melbourne for a rally starting at the MAYSAR Sport and Recreation Centre in Gertrude Street before marching through the streets to end on the steps of Parliament House. Earlier in the day there was a protest at the Canadian Consulate against the dispossession of First Nations and the holding of the Winter Olympics on stolen land – see report here – which also has photos from the NT protest. After the rally at Parliament House there was a further event at Federation Square – Woorrbadinda – Sorry… It’s just the first step – see the Songlines website. And to round off the day, there was Liberation Bound, Live Hip Hop and Reggae to raise money for the Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective and the Ampilatwatja Walk Off

The placard above sums up the issues and demands, but for extensive background resources see the website of the Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (Australia) – WGAR.

This is how the demands were set out in the callout:

-Reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act
-End Paternalism
-Stop Welfare Quarantining
-Houses and Services for all Aboriginal Communities
-No Strings Attached

sharon Firebrace

This is what we are bringing attention to today, that Aboriginal people are not treated equally like all other Australians ...


MC for the rally was Indigenous activist Sharon Firebrace, who introduced a series of speakers beginning with Uncle Bob Randall, Yankunytjatjara elder from Uluru with firsthand knowledge of the Intervention (and author of the ‘anthem of the Stolen Generations’ “Brown Skin Baby”.

Uncle Bob Randall speaking in Gertrude Street

Uncle Bob Randall speaking in Gertrude Street

Videos of the march and some of the speeches have been posted to YouTube (see end of this post) and the remaining speeches are scheduled to appear on EngageMedia shortly.

Other speakers at this part of proceedings were Adam Bandt, Greens Senate candidate:

Adam Bandt speaking at Gertrude Street

Adam Bandt speaking at Gertrude Street

Lucy Honan, representing the Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective, organisers of the rally:

Lucy Honan speaking at Gertrude Street

Lucy Honan speaking at Gertrude Street

and Steve Jolly, Socialist member of Yarra City Council, who spoke about the local version of the Intervention, Local Law 8:

Steve Jolly speaking at the initial rally

Steve Jolly speaking at the initial rally

As noted above, MP3s of all these speeches should soon be available on Melbourne Indymedia. Video may take a few days more.

There followed a march through part of the CBD, ending with more speakers at Parliament House, including a second chance to hear Uncle Bob Randall, along with well-known local activist Robbie Thorpe and Tim Gooden, just returned from the house building at the Ampilawatja protest camp (see report in Green Left Weekly):

On the march

On the march - 1

On the march

On the march - 2

On the march

On the march - 3

On the march

On the march - 4

Robbie Thorpe behind the sound truck

Robbie and Sharon took turns at the PA on the route

Bob Randall in cabin of ute

While Uncle Bob, at 82, was surely entitled to a lift

A few more flags and banners on the march:

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group

Eureka flags

Freedom Socialist Party

No Olympics on Native Lands

Anarchist red and black flags

These speeches are now available on EngageMedia:

Robbie Thorpe

Adam Bandt

Steve Jolly

Tim Gooden’s speech is still in the pipeline…

Added 23 Feb: Tim Gooden

‘Age of Stupid’ – local politicians get gold passes to screenings…

Paul with gold pass outside Bronwyn Pike's office

Gold Pass for Bronwyn

Climate action group inc3 (Inner Northwest Climate Change Community – http://www.inc3.info/) are holding a screening of the climate change movie ‘Age of Stupid’ on 22 February (details on website – http://www.inc3.info/index.php/film-night) and thought it appropriate to invite the local state and federal members. Paul Connor from the group delivered the gold passes, carefully handmade and personalised, by hand yesterday to the offices of Bronwyn Pike, State MLA for Melbourne, and Lindsay Tanner MP, Federal Minister for Finance and Deregulation:

Paul with gold pass outside Lindsay Tanner's office

Gold pass for Lindsay

The Federal Minister was unfortunately not on hand to take delivery, but his receptionist accepted it on his behalf:

Handing the pass to Lindsay Tanner's receptionist

Delivering the pass to Lindsay Tanner's office

Bronwyn Pike, on the other hand, left a meeting to meet the group’s representative, and expressed considerable interest in its activities:

Bronwyn Pike examining the pass

Paul delivers gold pass to Bronwyn Pike MLA

She was not, however, prepared to commit to attending the screening…

There is a fuller account on the inc3 website – http://www.inc3.info/ – and video is in preparation [added 12 Feb, see below]

inc3 also had a stall at the North Melbourne Farmer’s Market last Sunday, and plans to be there again on March 7th:

The inc3 stall at North Melbourne Farmer's market

Spreading the word

Rebranding a politician – climate action 3 February

Picketing Richard Wynne's office

Early in the picket

Climate activist groups Beyond Zero Emissions and YCAN (Yarra Climate Action Now!) are planning to hold weekly ‘rebranding’ sessions outside the office of Labor State Minister Richard Wynne all the way up to the election in November – “or until the Brumby Government implements some decent climate crisis policies!” Six similar actions were held last year, and this was the first of 2010. Response from passers-by and the rush hour traffic was positive, and the turnout more than met the needs of an avowedly ‘low maintenance action’.

The banners and placards were backed up by musicians Ducks in the Mud, bit the din of the traffic rather had he better of them, unfortunately:

Musicians Ducks in the Mud

Unequal contest with the traffic

Passers-by were invited to take a leaflet offering suggestions for action as well as a summary of the Brumby Government’s contradictory actions and words:

Handing out leaflets

All ages were involved

From the flyer:

The Brumby Government likes to talk about taking the lead on climate change. But
they are actively supporting this way of producing electricity and the foreign
corporations that make profits from it, and not supporting renewable energy
alternatives which would cut emissions and save water. Labor’s done this by:

- Investing our money in the construction of a new coal-fired power station
in the Latrobe Valley.
- Lobbying to get the owners of coal power stations more compensation from
taxpayers under an emissions trading scheme.
- Accepting thousands of dollars in donations to the Labor Party from coal
corporations in return for private meetings in which coal expansion
proposals are discussed.
- Investing in research in so-called ‘clean coal’ rather than genuinely clean
energy production like baseload solar and wind power that actually exist.
- Going back on a promise to introduce a gross feed-in tariff which would
pay owners of solar panels for all the electricity their panels produced.
- Looking into exporting dirty brown coal to countries like India.

The flyer is available as a .pdf from the BZE website

Another view of the action:

The lineup outside Richard wynne's office

The action in full swing

On the ground:

Enter coal lobby - chalked on ground

Summing it up