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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 February, 2004, 10:50 GMT
Sydney mourns Aboriginal teen
Hickey's memorial service
Hickey's mother claims police were chasing her son before he died
A memorial service has been held in Sydney for Aboriginal teenager Thomas Hickey, whose death this week sparked the city's worst violence in years.

Although peaceful, an undercurrent of anger ran through the ceremony.

"Young Thomas is one of the many that have been sacrificed over the years," said Aboriginal leader Kevin Smith.

Hickey's mother accused police of chasing her son when he crashed his bike and became impaled on a metal fence. Police strongly denied this.

Mourners recited Christian prayers, performed traditional dances and played the didgeridoo in Pemulwuy Park in Sydney's Redfern suburb.

Speakers spoke of their sorrow at Hickey's death. He was described as a fun-loving boy who had been denied opportunity. At the time of his death he was wanted for breaching an apprehended violence order over an assault.

Let's hope that young Thomas' death was not in vain
Aden Ridgeway, Aboriginal MP

"Welfare aid is not a solution, it is band-aid, it only offers lazy attitudes. Give our kids a chance, give us a chance," said Mr Smith.

Aden Ridgeway, the sole Aborigine in the national parliament, told the gathering that the tragedy had focused Australia on the plight of its indigenous population.

Aborigines are the most disadvantaged group in Australia.

Indigenous men die - on average - 20 years younger than their white counterparts and suffer disproportionately high rates of ill health, imprisonment and unemployment.

"I am asking the rest of Australia to change their mind, to understand the hurt we are feeling within indigenous communities. We are crying out for change and this is not coming from the government.

"Let's hope that young Thomas' death was not in vain," Mr Ridgeway said.

Just two uniformed policewomen watched the memorial from across the park.

In the nine-hour riots in Redfern which followed Hickey's death, more than 40 police officers were injured.

Three separate investigations into the disturbances have been launched.

Hickey will be buried next week in his home town of Walgett in New South Wales state, Australian Associated Press reported.


SEE ALSO:
Australia's lost generation
16 Feb 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Sydney riots over Aborigine death
16 Feb 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Australia
03 Jan 04  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Australia
04 Feb 04  |  Country profiles


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