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TJ Hickey’s death site to be stripped by upgrade

The fence on which Redfern Aboriginal teenager Thomas ‘TJ’ Hickey was fatally wounded may be removed as part of a planned upgrade by Housing NSW reports Angus Thompson in City news of 16 April 2009.

While the plans were underway since October last year, the Department only recently informed TJ’s mother, Gail Hickey, of their intentions.

“I don’t care if they remove the fence…I’m still going to be there every anniversary,” said Ms Hickey, who gathers at the site every year with with others to remember her son.

TJ Hickey died in 2004, impaled on fence near Phillip Street in Redfern after falling from his bike. His death sparked a nine-hour riot by locals who alleged a police vehicle chased him to his end.

Despite receiving the development application for the area known as Waterloo Green in December last year, Sydney City Council say they were unaware of the intended removal of the fence.

“The Development Application was submitted by the Housing NSW and is for landscaping works to the site known as the Waterloo Green including new paths, stairs, ramps and tree removal and replacement,” said a City spokesperson.

“The application does not include specific reference regarding the removal of the fence outside the Turanga tower where TJ Hickey died in 2004.”

The upgrade is a response to a safety audit of the area done last year, which identified maintenance issues and low visibility as key concerns.

The development Masterplan states intentions to remove the fencing and replace it with new fencing without horizontal rails or protruding spikes. “Spikes/fence poles extruding above the top rail of the fence pose a risk of injury,” it says.

It also says that the retaining wall, on which phrases like ‘R.I.P TJ’ are inscribed, is “unattractive.” However, a Housing NSW spokesperson said that they had no intention of removing the wall.

President of the Indigenous Social Justice Association, and Redfern local, Ray Jackson, said the fence has become a site of significance for the local Indigenous people, and that removing the fence would unsettle the community.

“There’d be a lot of anger. There’d be some tears, I suspect, from the family and that. It’s a slap in the face to do it,” he said.

Often twice a year, masses of people gather at the fence on the anniversary of Hickey’s death, and the anniversary the decision of the coronial inquiry was handed down, which many claim was corrupt.

However, a Housing NSW spokesperson said that plans to remove the fence weren’t definite: “Whilst the removal of the fence in question was recommended as part of proposed works, it is not considered essential.

“Housing NSW will be consulting with the family of TJ Hickey before taking any action on whether to retain or remove the fence in question, and what would be appropriate in terms of any replacement,” said the spokesperson.

But Ms Hickey said that talks were now underway to allow a plaque that was originally banned, to finally be put up at the site.

The State Government would not allow the plaque, which stated that Hickey died “arising from a police pursuit,” to be erected, only accepting the version that it was a “tragic accident.”