Australian Aboriginal News & Current Affairs

The most up-to-date and relevant news stories regarding Aboriginal culture


Do you want to be the owner of this superb concert class Didj? Just answer our Questionnaire

Win a Concert Class Didj!

Visit The Didjshop - the largest and most extensive virtual didjeridu shop

Have a read of the comments left by visitors to the didjshop

Now to the story...


A car burnt out during the Redfern riot

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 16 February 2004


Redfern calm after riots

The Aboriginal community has been holding a BBQ in Redfern tonight after elders called for no further violence following last night's riots.

Six police officers are keeping watch as about 100 people hold the BBQ in Eveleigh Street, also known as the block, from a distance of about 50 metres.

A NSW police spokesman told ABC News Online "there is not a situation" in Redfern but would not comment on police numbers in the area for "operational reasons".

The riot, which left dozens injured, erupted after the death of Thomas Hickey on the weekend and community members refuse to accept police statements that he was impaled on a steel fence after falling from his push bike.

Police have been asked by local elders to keep their distant from the BBQ so as not to provoke the younger members of the community.

Community anger

Members of Sydney's Redfern Aboriginal Community told a public meeting on the block this afternoon that police harassment of young people was to blame for the riot.

They allege Thomas was being chased by police and that his bike was struck by a police car, throwing him onto the fence.

Community leader Lyle Munro told the meeting that young people are a constant target for police on patrol in Aboriginal communities.

"We have a current case under investigation in Dubbo where a young man was chased and was found dead in the river, we have situations like that all over Australia," he said.

"We've seen all the yahoo about reconciliation, there is no such thing as reconciliation."

One resident - Uncle Phil - said people are very tense.

"The uncles are saying, 'Look out, the black fella is liable to do anything'," he said.

Senator critical

The State Government's response to an outcry in the Aboriginal community over the death has been condemned by the Aboriginal Senator Aden Ridgeway.

Senator Ridgeway says the government has failed to recognise the need for a broad judicial inquiry into Aboriginal-police relations and that the three separate investigations will not go deep enough.

Offering his condolences to the Hickey family, Premier Bob Carr has announced three-separate inquiries - to be carried out by the Coroner, the Ombudsman and the Police Critical Response Team.

Despite calling the inquires, Mr Carr has backed police denials that they were involved in the boy's death.

Senator Ridgeway says reports Thomas sped off on his pushbike after seeing a patrol car revealed a fear of police.

"In that particular case, I think that it really is indicative of the poor relationship that exists between the Redfern Aboriginal community and the local police service," he said.

The boy's mother also claims local police inflamed tensions by sniggering at her and a group of grieving relatives.

Mr Carr says such claims and counter claims will all be examined.

"I'd take all allegations at the present time with some caution, we're going to have a proper evaluation of this," he said.

Union concerned

Meanwhile, the New South Wales Fire Brigade Employees Union says it has serious concerns about police using a fire hose against rioters in Redfern.

Union President Daryl Snow says that apart from the safety issue of police using the high powered hose, the action implies that Fire Brigade staff were willingly involved in helping to suppress the violence.

"It's unheard of for the police to request the use of a fire truck," he said.

"It may well be that under certain statutes they have that ability but my suggestion is that if they really want to use water cannon they can purchase something Northern Ireland-style and use that but we're certainly not going to allow trucks with the NSW Fire Brigades to be used other than to suppress fire."

The Assistant Commissioner of New South Wales Fire Brigades has thrown his support behind police used of a fire truck hose.

John Benson says police only used the hose after it had been abandoned by retreating fire officers.

"If police had not taken the action that they had in commandeering that hose and the rioters had overrun the police line and damaged the fire engine itself, we may have been in the position that if the fire did escalate that we wouldn't have appropriate or the necessary equipment on the ground to extinguish the fire and therefore ensure the safety of property and life," he said.

Assistant Commissioner Benson says at the time the hose was not switched on to high pressure volume.

"Our procedures in civil disturbances are based on the learnings from Northern Ireland and in Los Angeles city fire departments and just ensures that the fire services, in this case the NSW Fire Brigades remain totally neutral," he said.

"We attended at the request of the NSW Police Service last night and this morning to extinguish fires and that's what we did."

Police tactics

NSW Opposition leader John Brogden says police should have been better equipped to deal with the violence.

The assistant police commissioner Bob Waites has rejected criticism that the specially trained State Protection Group (SPG) was not called in.

Commissioner Waites says weather conditions prevented the safe use of equipment such as tear gas and it was decided that bringing in the SPG would create more problems.

He says after consultation they declined to attend.

"Given if you use any sort of dispersal it's got to be about which way the wind's blowing or if there's any wind," he said.

"Given last night's situation with the high humidity and absolutely no wind, the use of any sort of substances would've affected everybody on the ground and it would not have been able to be controlled."


Return to Top


Return to The Didjshop's Aboriginal News Web Log


Links to other web sites about Aboriginal Australia


Visit The Didjshop

  Check out the world's coolest shop for didgeridoos

Click here to receive occasional email Newsletters from The Didjshop

The Didgeridoo Specialist - founder of