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Shane Martin on being deported from Australia.
Shane Martin was a top-ranking official in Australia’s Rebels motorcycle gang until an immigration crackdown saw him deported back to New Zealand three years ago.
The 52-year-old was born in Huntly but moved to New South Wales at age 20 and later joined the Rebels bikie gang.
He married in Australia and had three sons, including AFL star Dustin Martin who is one of the country’s biggest sporting stars, having won numerous awards during his career including the 2017 Brownlow Medal, widely acknowledged as the highest individual honour in the sport.
But Martin now lives in Mount Maunganui, consumed with ongoing legal challenges, after former Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton deported him because of his links to the gang.
As he fights to return to the country he now sees as home, Martin has released a book with Kiwi gang expert Jarrod Gilbert, A Rebel in Exile.
In an extract below, Martin details joining the gang after being a nominee or “nom” for two years. The trial period involved being at the “beck and call of members”.
He also details a police raid on the gang’s clubhouse as anti-consorting laws came in.
One meeting night — which is called church — us noms [Rebels gang nominees] were downstairs in the clubhouse stocking the bar and mucking about. Members don’t drink before meetings, so we were mostly just waiting for it to finish. The members came in one by one and filed upstairs for their eight o’clock meeting. A while later, a bark came from upstairs. “Kiwi, come up here!”
At first I thought they just wanted some beer or something, but it became clear it was more than that.
The members were sitting at a long table with the president at the head. Everyone was looking at me.
“What,” the prez bellowed, “were you doing down at the pub on Friday night telling everyone you’re hard?”
I stuttered a bit because I was racking my brain, trying to think what I’d done. “What … what are you talking about?” I finally managed.
He leaned over the table and pointed a finger at me.
“You … know what you did Kiwi … You’re getting another three months as a nom.”
The colour must have drained out of my face. I wanted to defend myself but noms don’t get to argue back, especially not with the president.
Then someone began to splutter, and a second later everybody was roaring with laughter.
The president’s face opened up into a toothy smile and he said, “Come here, brother. As of tonight you’re a member of the Rebels.”
He came out from behind the table and gave me a big bear hug. One by one all of the other members did the same. I was handed a plastic bag with the four parts of the back patch and the rest of the front in it. I had my colours. I was in.
I walked back downstairs, and the other noms were all looking at me.
I hollered at them, “Get me a beer,” and they knew what that meant. With a patch I could now call the shots rather than having them called at me.
Two others were then ordered up to get their patches and we partied all night. It was an amazing buzz. Before we started partying, me and the other guys with new patches glued all the pieces onto our backs. It was just a temporary hold until we could get them stitched on, but we wanted to go for a ride flying the flag.
For the first time I roared out of the clubhouse wearing a patch. I was buzzing. I didn’t feel tougher or anything, just proud to be a member. Proud to be part of something.
Knowing that the other men wearing those colours had my back. I now had a thousand brothers around Australia, and the 14 men in my chapter were as close to me as anyone in the world.
I could trust them, and they could trust me. I could rely on them and they could rely on me. For the first time in my life I knew what belonging was like. Joining the club changed me. And it changed me for the better.
But just because I had become a member, it didn’t mean I could do whatever I liked in the club. People would be surprised by how many rules there are. Some of them are written down and universal, such as no intravenous drug use.
You know those boundaries, and if you cross them, you cop it. It’s like anywhere: there’s consequences. Most of the time it’s fines. Small infractions like disrespecting a brother or missing a meeting can cost you between 50 and 500 bucks. More serious crimes can cost you your patch. If you betray your brothers, you’re out on your arse.
Pretty soon I had a real brother in the club, too. Dean nommed after I did and got his patch in Melbourne in 2006.
Another thing about the club is that the members don’t own anything that represents it. The patch, T-shirts, rings, belt buckles — they all belong to the club. That means if you leave the club, or you get kicked out, then all of those things must be returned.
But all the rules are really about upholding the principles of loyalty and respect — both to your brothers and to the club as a whole. Those are the big things and everyone must wear them in their hearts. Following the rules, respecting the man, and being loyal at all times.
Members of clubs will know what these things mean — they are central to everything we are about — but in some ways they are hard to define.
At its most basic it means that if a member asks you for a favour and you can do it, then you do it. No questions asked. Give your brother the shirt off your back if that’s what he needs.
And then you look around your chapter and you know each of them will do that for you, and then you look at all of the chapters and know they will do the same. Members won’t lie to you, betray you or hit on your missus. That is a great feeling. And that’s why people want to join the clubs.
That’s why people stay in the clubs. It’s pretty simply really.
You don’t see this stuff in the media; all you hear about is crime. Yes, there are guys who break the law in clubs and those blokes are punished for what they do, but that’s not what the clubs are about.
The scene over the years had really begun to change.
Back in the day we had local pubs we’d drink at, particularly after a weekend run or something like that. Police would sometimes pressure them to ban or not serve us, but publicans generally ignored them. So long as we kept to ourselves and didn’t cause trouble, our money was as good as anyone else’s.
But the cops kept pushing and eventually bans on our patches and clothing started to happen, first in nightclubs and then even in our local pubs. It didn’t make much difference to us though.
The publicans knew us and they said, “Kiwi, we don’t mind you coming here, but we don’t want any paraphernalia … ,” and I said, “Sweet, no drama.” You’ve got to respect that.
We left our patches at home and everything was cool.
In more recent times there were more guys — but still only a minority — who were involved in crime, particularly around the drug trade. But that was their business, and not the club’s.
A lot of guys did recreational drugs — not that I was a very big drug taker, I’d all but given that up by then — and so it was sometimes handy to have a guy around who was slinging dope.
We looked at it in the same way tradies do cash jobs: sure it’s illegal, but if my mate does it it’s his business and not mine. He takes the risk and it’s got nothing to do with the club.
But most people didn’t see it like that, and sure as hell the cops didn’t. They thought we were some sort of organised crime network. It was rubbish, but that’s what they thought.
And so the laws got tougher and tougher. It was happening all over the country, and in 2012 they hit New South Wales when they brought in new anti-consorting laws.
These weren’t laws just targeting people breaking the law in the club, they made us all criminal just for hanging out with one another. Everyone saw the Queensland laws as being the worst, and they were pretty bloody bad, but really New South Wales’s laws were almost as harsh.
But despite the laws being on the books, it took a long time for them to be enforced. The odd guy would get a warning, but to be honest, we didn’t take them that seriously. I wasn’t a criminal, so I figured I had nothing to fear. Riding your bike with your mates was hardly a crime and I couldn’t see them enforcing a law that made it one.
One night we were at the Big House having a meeting of the chapter presidents from around Sydney. We had some huge parties in that place; it was the king of clubhouses, and when the beer was flowing and we hired topless waitresses, it was the place to be. Not everybody’s cup of tea, sure, but I had some of the best times of my life partying in there.
But on this night it was nothing special, just the same as we always did. The meeting ended, no bother there, and everything was normal. Afterwards we hung around for a few beers.
Me and a few others were in the back room when we first heard a bit of a commotion. I thought somebody might have been playing up and that Alex [Vella, former Rebels president] was having a bit of push and shove with someone, but it quickly became clear it was more than that. In fact, it was like a movie. These Raptor cops came crashing in like they were busting up a terrorist plot.
There were loads of them. They even had a helicopter.
They were everywhere, all blacked out with helmets and balaclavas, each with riot guns. And they were screaming, “Get on the ground, you dogs! Get down!” Australia’s finest.
At gunpoint they get us all to lie flat on the ground with our arms above our heads and they have dogs that they let get close to our faces and bark like crazy. It’s overkill, and it’s sure as hell not pleasant. And if you look up, boom!
You get hit with the butt of a rifle and your hands zip-tied behind your back.
A number of them were sneering at us on the ground: “You’re not so tough now, are you?”
Not only was it all so over the top but here were these blokes, with dogs and big guns, all masked up, telling people handcuffed on the floor that they weren’t tough. I mean, it was hardly a fair fight.
We just had to lie there and seethe. What the hell was all of this? And what was it for? What did they achieve? It’s possible they got a couple of guys on outstanding warrants or something petty — I can’t actually remember — but what I know for sure is that there was no big bust, no mass arrests, no giant plot discovered, no nothing. It was just the cops showing us they had the power to do what they liked. And apparently they could. I saw it as weak.
A few of the guys have got crook backs from motorcycle accidents or whatever, but the cops didn’t care. Everybody had to lie there. And not for a short time: we were on the floor for an hour, maybe two.
Then they made us strip so they could take photos of all our tattoos. The guy taking photographs of my legs called a few of his mates over: “Check this out.”
I have “Mother” tattooed down one leg and “F*****” down the other. I couldn’t have been more pleased at that point.
God knows how much the whole operation cost, or the amount of burglaries, rapes or other actual crime they could have been out solving. Instead the police were spending all of this money and time to get a private tattoo show and to pretend they were tough. I hadn’t done anything wrong so I just kept my head down, but it wasn’t long before I learned that you didn’t have to do anything wrong to fall foul of the law.
• A Rebel in Exile
By Shane Martin and Jarrod Gilbert
Published by Hardie Grant.
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