The banned brothers
Outlawed motorcycle gang members have always generated fear for their above-the-law attitude and violent tendencies, but after recent events they sit squarely at the top of Australia’s most wanted list. Tess Morrell speaks to a gang member.
“You can’t use my name or my club’s name. If you incriminate me I could, no, I will, get reprimanded and I’m not saying that I would ever hurt you, but someone else will.” The red and black tribal-like tattoos that cover his biceps jolt as he cuts into his rare steak.
The mid-afternoon sun shines into the family restaurant. Chatting and bursts of laughter stretch around the balcony of diners. Some holiday-makers take a moment to stare. I wonder if it is out of intrigue or concern. In the past months my lunch partner has been thrust into the public spotlight – a pseudo-celebrity for all the wrong reasons.
Outlawed motorcycle gang members have always generated fear for their above-the-law attitude and violent tendencies, but after recent events they sit squarely at the top of Australia’s most wanted list.
He tells me that he and his “brothers” have been warned to “pull their heads in.” This seems unlikely when everything he aesthetically projects seems pitched to intimidate; an awkward mix of threatening power and reserved civility. His tight black t-shirt shows off his defined muscles and tattoos. He is wearing a huge, gold diamond encrusted watch on one wrist and a matching bracelet on the other. His sleek, tinted, black Jaguar waits outside in the busy main street. His cap is backward, his eyebrow is pierced and his boots are heavy and tough. “If I need to hurt someone they’ll do the job,” he jokes.
But the name of his highly respected and highly feared gang is conspicuously missing from his apparel. After the bullets and bombs and airport terminal bollards, his patch and bike are being used less and less.
His insistence on anonymity and his obvious wariness of me and my recorder isn’t about the authorities, he tells me. All of his calculated answers, jolting pauses and “no comments” predominantly link back to the code of silence he took when he was handed his colours. I sit innocently nodding, but to him I am worryingly dangerous.
So, he eats his meal and speaks tentatively with me about his time in the bikie sub-culture, which to me is like a gangland mini-series dictated over a couple of hours.
He joined his first motorcycle gang in his early twenties. “I’d prefer not to tell you their name,” he says quickly. “I got into it through an old-school passion for Harley Davidsons and rode with them for a few years, but I lost respect for that brotherhood and handed in my colours.”
How did he leave a club so ingrained in illegal activity and secrecy? “It wasn’t a fun time when it happened.”
Now in his late thirties, he has many of these not-so-fun stories to share. Doing business in the “grey area” of the law with the mantra to “never back down, ever,” has definitely got him into trouble. But he speaks of the fights with a hint of pride. He was living up to the values his single father instilled. “The old man was a typical Kraut, he had a temper. No one messed with him and I idolised him,” he says, grinning like a mischievous child.
Painting the shade of his grey activities for me, he tells of years spent sneaking into a military exclusion zone in the South Australian desert for sandstone; scaling the wind-swept cliffs alone for high profit making material. Other years were spent working for opal miners as “a type of security guard.” Camping underground, sometimes for up to three days, he would wait silently for thieves to break the locks of the mine. “I would catch them and tie them up,” he says casually. “In those days I loved adventure, I felt like a modern day cowboy.”
Today, the business of making a living means the desert sand has been replaced with renovating and negotiating. Half the time he is a carpenter, the other half he “trusts the untrustworthy” as a loan shark. He doesn’t care what the money is used for, as long as they pay his high interest rate. And what if they don’t? He insists that he merely circles his prey, never attacks. “I don’t use old school tactics like thumping people to get my money.”
It is his new motorcycle gang that is his priority. “They are my family. I feel at home, you know?” He pauses. “I will never leave.”
He finishes his food and I turn off the recorder. He looks at me and sighs heavily with relief. He then pays with money from different pockets, “I don’t have a wallet ‘cause if I get in a fight they can’t steal everything. That’s why my clothes aren’t baggy either, too easy to grab on to.”
Such careful calculation is again highlighted a week later with a phone call. Club houses have been raided he tells me, his car searched and patches banned from group rides.
“I have sold the Jag,” he says sadly.
With the new laws, it’s getting harder to stay beneath the radar. But his sign off is defiant. “I can guarantee you that we will find a way to survive no matter what happens with the law.”