|You released The Brotherhoods: Inside the Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs in 2003 and quickly sold more than 50,000 copies in Australia. Did you receive any criticism from bikie clubs or the police when the book came out?
Yeah, from both of them. I’ve been called a mongrel and a bikie apologist. I’ve been called a whole bunch of things by South Australia’s State Government, and the bikies and coppers blasted the living buggery out of me. So I figure I’ve got to be doing something right if I’m in the middle of them. That said, I still maintain friendships with members of different bikie clubs, and also with the police. All I want is to get rid of the criminals in the clubs and get back to the riding.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m actually running a course on policing the organised crime aspects of the Australian bikie club for the Federal Police Executive College. A few police station masters from each state come along, and I try to teach them how to mediate between the police and the bikies because the traditional ‘hammer’ approach is just not working.
How do you remain objective? It must be difficult, considering that you have friends on both sides…
If I’m hanging out with a bikie club for a while, each night I call Julie van den Eynde, my field-note archivist, and debrief her thoroughly as to what happened, so the notes are as clean as they can be. I then get Julie to work me back through it all and take out any bias. It’s a scientific process—an insider/outsider technique.
Are there differences between US and Australian bikie clubs?
There is no [crime] problem here, compared with America. In a lot of ways, we have a pretty laidback, peaceful society, and our bikies tend to be that way, too. There is a lot more violence in the US gangs, and the customs are different. When the first Australian Banditos went over in around 1983 to meet up with the Banditos in America, they were shocked. They’d walk around a Bandito home and be offered the host’s wife or partner, and this shocked them because that custom did not take off here.
Is there an official mediator between bikie clubs in Australia?
The Motorcycle Council of Queensland tries to keep the Queensland clubs in line, and is by far the best tribunal in Australia. They allow two members from each club to come in and air their grievances, in an attempt to stop turf wars.
What is the major difference between a gang and a club?
Club is the preferred term. Bikies usually see ‘gang’ as a derogatory police term. You are only seen as a legitimate club when you have formed a group with absolutely no criminals in it, and you are operating at a level that is respectable within society.
|Has there been a rise in clubs and members over recent years?
Absolutely. There are more and more clubs springing up all the time.
How does one go about starting a bikie chapter in Australia?
There’s a hierarchy and a protocol that must be followed to get a club officially accepted in Australia. You need at least six members, three in smaller rural areas, and you have to get approval from the mother club, usually in the United States.
Why do you think that bikie clubs are seen in such a negative light?
Because some of the members in the clubs are criminals. However, what needs to be known is that bikie clubs are not criminal entities—some just have a few bad eggs in them. This is why other clubs are getting angry. There has been a drop in the core values of outlaw motorcycle clubs, and this is what we are attempting to wipe out for good.