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Interchurch call for reflection on Redfern riots

An ecumenical Indigenous body yesterday called for a period of national reflection in the wake of last month's tragic death of 17-year-old Thomas 'TJ' Hickey (pictured), and the riots that followed in the Indigenous neighbourhood in Sydney's inner-city Redfern.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission of the National Council of Churches in Australia said that although the passage of time "may not have lessened the pain of those affected by the situation", it gives the wider church community "a chance to revisit attitudes and responses to Indigenous people and to seek insight and a way forward".

The 16 February riot, which injured 50 police officers, was provoked by the accidental death of an Aboriginal teenager. Police continue deny the Aboriginal community's claim that they were in hot pursuit of 17 year old Thomas Hickey when he fell off his bicycle and impaled himself on a metal fence.

The Commission said the events have raised "deeper issues" that need to be "identified, recognised and resolved".

"It is regrettable that the death of 'TJ' had to occur before issues of reconciliation were brought again to the wider community's conscience," says the statement. "Those of us who are part of the wider community must try not to pre-judge any inquiries into these events. Let our contributions be constructive ones."

"In our sadness and concern, we must find space to remember and honour the work the residents of "The Block" and their supporters who are striving to build a better community for their people, especially the children and youth in the area. Their efforts reveal a courage and strength we admire. Let us continue to pray for them in these endeavours.

"Let us not forget the work, which is carried out in Redfern by our churches' pastors and lay associates - both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Their ministry has highlighted the significance of God's presence among us, especially in the difficult times of our lives. We know that they will continue to work with the people of 'The Block' and Redfern during these difficult times and into the future.

"Redfern Riots" - Call for Reflection, March 2004

'Redfern riots' - call for reflection (Insights 10/3/04)
Church helps soothe Australia's Aborigines (Ekklesia 4/3/04)
National Council of Churches of Australia | National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission
Chaplain says Redfern riot demands judicial enquiry (CathNews 17/2/04)
Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, Archdiocese of Sydney
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council
National Reconciliation Week 2003 (Australian Catholic Social Justice Council)

11 Mar 2004