Mont Icons

12: Ex-biker Brent Simpson on gang life, reverting to Islam and redemption

Warning: In this episode we discuss issues and experiences that could trigger distress or traumatic memories for people, particularly survivors of past abuse, violence or childhood trauma. In this episode we speak with former sgt-at-arms of the Bandidos, Brent Simpson, about gang life, reverting to Islam and his path to redemption. Brent is the host of true crime podcast The Clink, where he invites guests to tell their stories of redemption. Brent is a staunch advocate for The Voice of a Survivor, an organisation that offers support for institutional abuse survivors and victims of personal injuries. If anything in this episode triggers distress please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 anytime for confidential telephone crisis support.

Episode Transcript

MF: Mahmood Fazal

DX: Daniel Stewart

BS: Brent Simpson

DX: Warning. In this episode of Mont Icons, we discuss issues and experiences that could trigger distress or traumatic memories for people, particularly survivors of past abuse, violence or childhood trauma.

In this episode of Mont Icons, we speak with former biker Brent Simpson, about gang life, reverting to Islam and his path through redemption. Brent is a staunch advocate for mental health and speaks openly about ongoing issues relating to trauma.

BS: I couldn't tell you what redemption was when I was a kid. You know? Yeah, it was a non existent word. You're talking to a broken young man from the Housing Commission of the western suburbs of Sydney.That every time I tried to speak about what was happening to me I was flogged or just totallykicked to the curb.

MF: Brent is the host of true crime podcast, the clink, where he invites guests to tell their stories of redemption. Brent and I were both office bearers of different outlaw motorcycle clubs, as well as his difficult upbringing, time in prison, and subsequent redemption. Brent discusses his life as the former Sergeant at Arms of the Bandidos. We touch on our mutual experiences in motorcycle clubs, the Ballroom Blitz abroad where Christopher when Hudson was shot, and the bikie crackdown in Queensland. Brent from The Clink, Welcome to mont icons, it’s to pleasure to have you.

BS: Thank you very Mood, very much Mr Mahmood Fazal.

MF: Hey, tell us about redemption. The the key concept of, of what you're doing what does redemption mean to you? How would you define redemption?

BS: A very, very, very good question to start with. And I must say, I'm going to touch on this because it's a conversation that I've had over the last couple of days, believe it or not with people on my, my platform, you see people's comments, and they talk about that we glorify criminality crimes, and you know, that it's basically grubby and dirty, you know, you've got to have your negatives with the positives. And one thing about the clink is, the whole purpose of the clink is to deliver a story of redemption, without a story, from a background story without a story with some sort of content. And something that's very hard hitting, why do you need a story of redemption? The story of redemption comes from basically, more, for example, for myself from from making some very, very bad mistakes, or learning curves in my life, that cost me a lot of years affected a lot of other people around me. And I believe that the story of redemption is the road that I've chosen to walk to better myself as a human and to inspire others to positivity.

MF: Yeah, that's interesting, because the kind of crux of any story is conflict. without conflict, there is no story.

BS: That's right, what's war without conflict.

MF: So tell us about where you grew up and where the conflict started for you.

BS: So I was a product of the Housing Commission. Predominantly, it was an indigenous community I, I'm, I'm a white man, that grew up in an indigenous mission, basically, in the outskirts of the western suburbs of Sydney. came from a broken home, I was a product of a parent who was quite quite violent, consumed a lot of alcohol worked very hard he did but had his demons, which I will talk about later with you if you're interested to why. Now as a grown man at 45, I understand a lot more of my father than what I ever did. And I also to was, I don't want to use the word victim because I don't believe in giving that power back. But I was as I am a survivor of child sex abuse, I was molested and raped as a young person in the environment that I lived in, no family members, but by neighbours, by priest at school, which I went to at that stage. When I say priests, I should refer that sorry, bring that back to the fact that they were classed as brothers. They look like priests but they were brothers. Maurice brothers. So for me, my world started in In a very, very big spin, nobody would listen. Back then, you know, you're a broken home, you were just shit. You would, you know, you use second grade, I was at a Catholic Primary School at that stage. So I was one of very few coming to the school from a broken home. Instantly, I was pushed to the side. And nobody was and I didn't have many friends, I wasn't invited to birthdays. That just wasn't what happened. You know, I was a good inspiring young footballer. I was very, very good at rugby league later in life. And it's sort of made me had to work harder, because I wasn't acknowledged as much as probably I should have.

MF: When you were a kid, what was your relationship with faith? Like, being in that environment before before anything happened? How did you think about God because redemption is such a key key kind of thing in your life.

BS: Look, to be honest with you, My my, my grandparents, both are passed. Now God bless them. My mother, who back then was in my life, she was raised in a very strict Irish Catholic, hence going to a Catholic primary school and when we will pull from the Housing Commission, but you know, the schooling was everything. And that's what it was about. Did I believe in a god? I can't answer that, to be honest with you, because I, I don't know if I ever did, especially back then. Yes. So I went through all the processes of a good Catholic boy. And, you know, yes, I was also raped and molested by those that are interest of us that were, you know, people supposed to be children or, you know, deliverers of God's Word. Somebody whom you're supposed to trust in it, and you know, could find safety. And so for me, now, I can't honestly say religion had a big play in my life personally, but it was a big part of what was going on around me.

DX: Brent returning to redemption a little Do you remember hearing this concept thrown around when you were younger? And what did you make of it?

BS: I couldn't tell you what redemption was when I was a kid. You know? Yeah, it was a non existent word. You're talking to a broken young man from the Housing Commission of the western suburbs of Sydney. That every time I tried to speak about what was happening to me, I was flogged or, you know, just totally kicked to the curb, like physically bashed? Yeah, it was. I don't ever remember. redemption, ever being a part of my mind or word vocabulary ever? In that that part of my early part of life?

MF: What did you learn about violence, then? Because you absorbed A lot of it at a very formative age. And at what point does that become natural to you like it becomes normalised in your worldview? Because it happens quite young,

BS: I think. Yeah, it did. And look, you know, I think back then to late 70s, early 80s. You know, you you had a son, and he was raised tough played rugby league, or, you know, in 40 years, you would know it. You didn't beat cheating wins. And obviously, you never ever sort of talked out of school, if you did say anything. Yeah, didn't get in well, so that's embedded into you. Ah, you know, the whole violence side of it, you become just accustomed to that tower use. You become so broken that you don't even know how to protect yourself in the end. And then all of a sudden, one day you just click and there's not a person or thing that will you will let harm you again. And that's where will the world for me became a very, very violent place in my doings.

MF: Would you call it empowerment through violence?

BS: Definitely, definitely not at that age, I think later in life, definitely. You know, as things progressed, and where I ended up and the things that I got involved with. Absolutely, yep. I would say most definitely. Because, for me at that stage, I got to a point as a late teenager, knowing that I was a force to be reckoned with that I would go to whatever extreme you wanted to go to to make sure that you did not beat me or you did not get it over me in any way, shape, or form. That was how I ended up becoming me.

DX: How do you process the trauma of inflicting violence at this stage of your life? How much how much of redemption is is that

BS: there is redemption at that age, my age now, there's years of redemption. You know, going back, the more I inflicted, the stronger I became, the more feed I became, the less I had to worry about somebody harming or hurting me in any way, shape or form that I feed and felt growing up as a young person. You gotta remember I was on the streets, you know, by the age of 11, sleeping and stolen cars, and middle of football ovals breaking into, you know, you community holes just to turn a heater on around the wall. So I slept in warmth in winter, I was broken, totally broken. And for me, the only way I knew to go forward was to be that that person that people would all of a sudden take note of, and wouldn't harm wouldn't hurt because I became such a a fearless and violent person.

MF: Yeah, I mean, it is interesting, like the further I've I find that I move away from it, the more it haunts me this idea that I imposed the same trauma that I might have experienced when I was young on other people, like I never, I never really thought about that the distance, the further away you move away from it, you start to think I actually started doing some of that some of those awful things to other people that how do you deal with that? I struggle with that. I mean,

BS: yeah, that that's a really good question. For me, I think, you know, the big turning point was after nearly 14 years of jail, and my last sentence was six years, being a gang member and an ex gang member, I've rebelled the first couple of years, because I was so angry and violent. I was basically a part of the gang units, I was, say, grow for several times over years, you know, like, it just became to the point where I refuse to be broken, but I've allowed myself to break down who I was, for me, Ireverted. I found faith in Islam. And you know, that that wasn't something that was a following or cult, or, you know, like, you see a lot of systematic people today that go in there. And they tend to jump on board for their own protection, or this was me in a cell, reaching out trying to find something that would give me peace within myself. I did a lot of reading, a lot of soul searching, and a lot of self forgiveness, because I blamed myself for a lot of things. You need to find peace, let go of that bitterness and that anger. redemption came for me. After that, then coming home from that, and realising that I don't want to be that person, and then sitting down and thinking about the things that I had done, and how people felt, you know, I was in for commercial importation. How many people would have been affected, how many lives would have been lost, had that have happened and gone through? There's no doubt it would have destroyed many lives. So you know, I definitely started to feel compassion, I definitely started to realise that if I wanted to be a better human, I had to go real, real deep. Bring up my pain and anger from the past and let it be gone. I had to find something that I could find faith in a connection in. And something that gave me self belief to be a better human to want to strive to help others to give back and to try and read them. Find some sort of redemption within my own actionsand my life.

MF: Let's go back a bit and break down. When you started getting involved in gangs, was it all like, we're both members of office bearers in outlaw motorcycle clubs, but what was it was that your first foray into gang cultural what what, what were your Western Sydney? I mean, yes, throughout the late 80s, early 90s a lot of gangs Yep.

BS: It was especially coming out of the streets of the Western Sydney. You know, you got to remember, low demographic Housing Commission, a lot of multiculturalism. You know, I was a white filler and in predominately Islander and indigenous communities, there was a lot of Asians that started to come. I got on very well with just about everybody but I also to clashed with just about everybody to you know, that was just part of life. For me, it predominantly started you know, around a street street cruise. I mean, we were what we called searchers back in the day you know, like we were known for certain style of robberies and bank bank jumping bank counters, you know, we will ram writers we were, we were a crew of brothers that actually were pretty hardcore. You know, a lot of people I knew turned to heroin back then. Because that's just like ice today, it was the drug of choice. And everybody sort of was chasing the dragon. I didn't die. I was that guy that seeing, I guess, the value of the dollar in that. And I thought, well, if everybody's going to Cabo or wherever they go to school, why can't you just come and see me and maybe the person's got some money for science. And that's the road that I took. That sort of, you know, brought my name up, that allowed me to walk on certain sort of paths that, you know, you meet certain people, to which later than, you know, I was just 10, seven, eight, and I was offered a bike by a particular club, back then, in the southwest, and Sydney, who was quite a strong club still around today, obviously. And, you know, I was like, Nah, fuck this, I don't need no clubs. So I'm a one man band, or I had my five, eight. And we just did what we did. Well, then every time we went out, you know, to the local nightclubs, and that the noms would be lined up to soon as we walk through the door, yeah, they've disrespected I can't get him. Next thing you know, we're all in Brooklyn. And, man, one of my particular buddies with back to back and we did well, we're, well, next thing, you know, we're getting invited back to the clubhouse, you know, and then shouted drinks, and all of a sudden were accepted within this, this world. You know, you go from a street world to then a structured, you know, outdoor world if I can put it that way.

MF: Describe what the what the that first impression was, like, when you walk through the you were invited back to the clubhouse? What did it look like? What was it? illustrate that because,

BS: you know, coming into the clubhouse, and it was like, all right, it's a big industrial area. It's very dark. It's very dingy. And you know, people go missing all the time and things happen and it's like, oh shit this video, but then you walk in there, you know, and you're in there and you come in there with a very close office bear who was passed now. And you know, I literally was this is my man whatever he wants at the bar. Next thing you know outcomes and nine mil and bom, bom, bom, bom into the roots parties on Tsetse or out, drinks have flown next minute plates, they get handed around, and back, there was a lot of amphetamine, you know, and you play an app, you're there for two days, and all of a sudden, you're one of the boys. Well,I thought that that's how it was because I felt all of a sudden accepted into this bigger bigger picture. And then, you know, those outside of that we're looking at mega menu. You're in there, you know, yeah. You one of the boys on my head, chest out, you know, I'm tired. You know, I've got my street cred. And, and, yeah, my deck is real. So real quick, when you tell them you don't want to wear their colours. So then it became a you know, trying to stand over us and trying to get us to, you know, do things for them and pay money here and pay rent and it just never happened. Which that was a part of my violence, my my way of going forward that no one was going to stay in that and it didn't matter who you were, I was ready to run the ball up.

MF: Yeah, talk about it. talk a bit about climbing the ranks when you were part of that system, because you know, you got a load by that system. You obviously loved it. I loved it.

BS: I did. I did look, you know and I often sit back and I ponder on it, you know, but to me, it'll never be what it was. So I don't think we've missed anything. And I don't have any need or want to go into what today is classed as a one percenters lifestyle or what wasn't back then? Look, yeah, I think it was just the fact of feeling the people respected you, you know what I mean? Like I was just this kid that had been abused, torn, absolutely ripped to pieces that was just so broken, then all of a sudden, you know, I've I've done some really bad stuff to gain authority in my, my name, you know, or my nickname to be out there. So people sort of were aware of who I was, then all of a sudden, you know, I'm involved in a few other heavy things that really stamped down that I was there as a serious contender. I had always sort of got on with the right people, if I can put it that way. You know, I wasn't just another member from the moment when I first come in, I paid my dues. I still, you know, I did my time and I earned my colours Don't get me wrong. But you know, I was able to communicate and be a part of a bigger picture. So a lot of people don't like that as you are, we were all well aware of. And you find that you know, even within your own brotherhood that you know, there comes out the knives in the back and, you know, the different sort of manipulation games and things like that. I I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved what it was about. I loved the Brotherhood. I love the men that I said I'd live in dire beside. You know, getting getting put in a position of power. I don't think it ever gave me an ego what it did is it gave me a sense of, I can now protect others, if that makes sense. You know, I was this this young person that no unprotected and then all of a sudden, I'm getting looked at and respected because on that guy that's gonna fucking make sure you don't get shot or you don't get bashed and if anything happens I'm the one that's gonna run the ball up and Richard beard now and all like that I felt good because I was not from like I said, an ego point of view but just the protection of knowing that people didn't want to fuck with me because I was that guy that would go the extra mile I could get the job done. And I think that gave me a real sense of protection in my own self and person as well as the Brotherhood you know that the love of each other and the camaraderie that there was back then that was your family

MF: in your in your position? What was some of the rules and codes that you want it to safeguard in that environment? Because those rules shift like in change like every every month they could you know staunch staunch codes of conduct can be manipulated by the vote of a different person so what were some of the rules that you want to stick staunch why and keep keep protected?

BS: Yeah, I wanted to embed the fact that you know, the dirty drugs sort of thing. That was a big thing for me. Look, I was never been seen as you know, the ice factor and that and that came in, you know, pretty hard and wiped out a lot of good people.

MF: You must have been involved when that first became a thing.

BS: Well, it was shabu. It wasn't even cold ice like it was and then there was cranked so you were mixing like a bit of speed with a bit of coke and next thing you know, there's there's shabu shabu. Well, what was shabu shabu shabu was like, you know, this meant that you could cook up,you know, pure as we call it, or you know, a little bit of Glock, then it becomes crystallisation. And then it just took a took a turn that, because you're gonna remember back in the day, you know, there was a lot of blokes that loved a little bit of spoonful, and that was the thing under the tongue or at the clubhouse for a day or two. And they're always good to drink as much as they want. And they'd be able to hold their own, you know, not not in a mental like physical, but not get sloppy, and always be alert noise beyond the game. For me, I felt that was a massive part that, you know, you didn't let that drug culture come into your Brotherhood in that way to destroy that. You know, always having your phone on. I know, this will probably haunt you too. But you know, you find anxious, your phone never ever turns off firing you in the middle of the fucking night you answer it, you know, because you just don't know. I'd have three phones back then they'll be gone all night long. And I'll be there one minute with a group of friends next year, I'll be on a plane, I'd be here I'd be there. I began overseas, it was just what it was. And I felt that, you know, that had to be go down the line. You just had to be there for your brother. You know, and and I think to respect, you know, respecting each other's ladies, I never tolerated anything to do with disrespectfulness or deceiving this to any brothers partners. And, you know, what happened at the church stayed at church. The the things that were very important, I mean, obviously to when you're in public, you know, I wouldn't I wouldn't tolerate people out there bringing the club into disarray by their actions. I felt that was important.

MF: You've always you boys must have gone going out into the public a fair bit. I know, when we were, when I was involved in a club, we weren't allowed fucking anywhere. It was kind of like, Oh, I caught I caught a little glimpse of it, where we were going out and the boxing and clubs in that, but it was few and far between,

BS: Oh, God, come on the back of some good times, you're very well aware of the good times and the gold coast, especially where you're originally from, you know, you guys had a big stronghold there, which, for some it wasn't good, because they obviously class but for others, and you got to remember to in my position, I was able to communicate with others in that same position in other outfits. So for me, it was a good thing. I could come and sit down and have a drink with you without any any any issues. We could talk, we needed to discuss certain things. And it was all done applicable. You know what I mean? It wasn't there wasn't any aggression or anything sort of untoward with each other, a handshake and a hug or whatever. At the end of the night. Thank you very much for your hospitality. As the club I was in, it was predominantly known that we never needed to mix with anybody else because we were big enough on our own. We had enough brothers. We didn't really bring outsiders into our clubhouse. You know, it wasn't till I think, the latter part of stage where, you know, goodwill, I suppose, and a few things that brought some different outfits together. Were a good faith and good gesture. You'd have a party, you'd invite them and then that was that? Was it something done every week or every month? No way. In theworld, and it

MF: wasn't it was this around the time that everybody was kind of doing that out of necessity. You were the United motorcycle council un, all that stuff kind of kicked off.

BS: So when when everything went down in Queensland, there was the us talking too much about it. There was a big issue that took place. Like I remember the ballroom Blitz, for example, that was a big thing. You know, and I, I, at that time was living with Chris had a we, we lived together. So he was with one crew, and I was with another crew, but we were like that. So you know, it was very difficult in some ways. But it was also quite good in abs. I had, I was in jail when all that stuff went down a broadbeach. With the clubs up there and all that sort of thing. I had left the club well and truly by the end, and I was into the back end of my sentence. Idon't know the facts of it. But I know that that that point there, things changed dramatically. So now I definitely wasn't a part of that era where one percenters were getting crushed out. I had just stepped away from it. Like three to six months prior to that. Yeah,

MF: yeah. Yeah. I mean, yeah, I can't really talk too much about that stuff. I will say rest in peace Bowden that didn't really have much to do with him in the latter stage of his life, and I don't know anything around that situationnow.

BS: And I mean, look, well, yeah. I mean, look, you knew the bloke on you the bloke and there's many other blokes you know, who are since passed on that were good blokes. You know, like, I remember sitting down many a time having a Friday, well, Friday was with your brothers. But you know, if you're that bloke that got invited on you could go to somewhere else. And you knew Saturday morning, they were kicking on and off, you'd go and, and I'd hanging out there for the night with the opposition or the other, the other crew, you know, and I mean, I, I was lucky enough to be able to do that. And do it respectfully, being who I was representing my brothers, but also to being accepted into another clubhouse.

MF: Did you? Did you ever think about the sacrifices involved? When you because man, people were getting shot and killed

BS: I was ready to kill. It's as simple as that. And I, you know, was there to protect my fellow brothers. And myself. I mean, there was many times there were confrontations had taken place

Yeah, I've got a few scars that I live with from that, but you know, the body heals. But the minds always got that day, you know, did I ever lose a brother out of my chapter. Whilst we're at war with other clubs, which one in particular, we were at war for quite some time. And there were definitely a lot that went on. Like under the radar, so to speak. Not like today, we said all in public. There was no no person's house or anything like that. It was predominantly enough actions taken away from women and children and, you know, businesses, it didn't happen like that at all, but the country, the country, by there was look people dying all over Australia, you know. So, you know, I have kissed many dead brother on the head, goodbye. And it's never easy, you know, and you always remember that. I felt very proud, though, that during those times that I was able to make sure that, you know, the chapter that I was the position I was in was safe, and the brothers that I will with all our while as far as I know life today, and then I'm not in the club anymore.

MF: Do you ever think back on like, Fuck, man, what will we we, we prepare to do? Like, how insane is that? The frame of mind that we're in?

BS: Today, I just don't think you could get away with doing anything. You know, even on when I say get away, I mean, I'm not talking about things, you know, we did or got away. I'm just speaking in general. And what I'm saying is, if you had the mindset that we had back then and acted the way that we acted, you would be doing life today. You know, like you just you just couldn't the way the world is the technology and just the main today, the difference diff diff different style of men,

MF: you know, DX, do you what do you make of this conversation that we're having, as an outsider to the to this world? What do you make of this?

DX: This is definitely one that I'm that I would listen and not comment on or interject, you know, especially given the traumas that you openly talk about attached to this both in seeing people you know, die, and also the violence that you've inflicted, but I'm very interested in the experience you had in jail? convert, converting and finding faith and, um, that that's one thing that I really loved about when I was listening to your podcast is that you always try and bring it back to that experience when people were really, there was a move away from it. And and what what that meant. So I'd like to highlight that experience for you.

MF: And can we go through like, when you went to prison, and you know, sticking fat with the club and doing doing the right thing, which a lot of people don't do, but and then and then how and then the point at which you decided to find faith and move away like, Whoa, take us through that narrative.

BS: Let's take it back. For starters, I was on my own, I had left the club. Just before about six months before I've gone to jail. And even when I've gone to jail, I still stayed in the wing.

MF: And the jails that that club was thatare dangerous is that for for people that are listening,

BS: it's crazy And look, it turned sour, probably about two and a half years down the track because I ended up having conflict with a member. And we had a fight. And the bottom line was I coming out victor and you know, humiliated. The other brothers within there in front of the whole wing and made that moment, not really respectful, I guess, in that. So it was quite intimidating in that sense. Because, you know, here, I was almost halfway through my sentence. I wasn't a member, when I went to jail, I was looking at 10 years, I ended up with six, you know, I, I To this day, put my hand up, pled guilty, no one else was charged. That was a full stop. I got the sentence and I did the time. You know, you can never ever go through the system and not have people sit there and beg you, once you leave the club, you'll always find someone out there and especially new up and comers that are trying to prove a point. You know, you'll hear in the background comments of we kicked him out of the club is a dog existence that there's there's no factor that whatsoever, there's not a human alive that's ever had a statement or a day's dial out of my mouth.

MF: I can Verify that a lot of very solid, solid men across the country have a lot of deep respect for you.

BS: Soyeah, thank you. And and you know, I really have held my own in that respect. I've, you know, I've got three or four children. You know, my wife was pregnant, I had every opportunity to flip the coin and, you know, roll the dice and take the other option. I didn't, you know, I stopped staunch and I went in there as an independent person, but I walked in without and then I asked him to be put away from the brothers that I had just left as a club,

MF: which a lot of people do.

BS: Absolutely. And and look, I won't lie to you. I didn't know what to expect. You know, All I knew is I had no skeletons in my closet. So what did I have to feel? You know what I mean? All I'd ever done was look after my brother always respected my club always done right. In every way possible. I chose to leave for a very good reason, which later came out in the wash anyway, and it wasn't, you know, to me, nothing that I had done other than punches person without authority. And I like I said it's Yeah, I won't go into the depths of that, because that opens up a whole new big thing that probably doesn't need to get spoken about publicly. So in that scenario, yes, definitely. There was thoughts in the back of my mind to arm up. where's this going to take me What do I have to do and I stayed true. You know, the first couple of years was very, very hard. I rebelled a lot. wind up striking me out at offices. So I end up getting segro. And as I said, You know, I did 12 months segregation in that time. You got nothing. You meeting a lot of high, high maximum security prisoners. You know, I spent a lot of time with someone who my new who is one of Australia's most notorious prisoners, the highest risk prisoner in Australia, and, you know, he's still there and many years to go, but we talked a lot. And, you know, for me, I didn't like to read then all of a sudden I was handed a Quran and I chose to read it. And I found peace within just from the words of you know, what was happening and how it was meant to be. It was all about peace. There was no I didn't say anything about violence or you know, how do you explain it it's a beautiful book to read as simple as that. And if people took the time to understand different religions, I mean, my wife is a Hari Krishna Hindu sort of back Round. You know, I spent many years in Thailand. So Buddhism was always something that I truly got in depth with because of the spiritual side of it all. And then I found a very, very passionate piece within my heart and my soul once I reverted to Islam,

MF: I think this is an interesting point that a lot of people don't actually talk about is that people are involved in this world are often deeply religious. or religious in some sense. Why do you think that is, man because most people will think that we're just this fuckin atheists, godless people that have no morality and just will do whatever it takes to, to get ahead. But really, a lot of a lot of the men that I knew are deeply religious and spiritual people.

BS: And you know, it doesn't matter what religion you are, some of my closest brothers were European, Serbian. So, you know, the Orthodox are very, very strong in their faith. You know, a lot of the Chabad the Muslim Brothers, you know, very strong in their faith. I mean, would they always get a Friday prayer? Not sure some do something to drink alcohol? You know, look, no one can judge bad God. You know, the way it's at the end of the day, you know, that's between you and God, if you say that you're Catholic Buddhists and what have you, that's your choice. I'm not here to judge I'm not here, believe me, you know what I mean, if somebody was to do wrong, wouldn't matter what religion you are, what walk of life What colour or creed? If you do something wrong with somebody, you it's gonna get dealt with? It's as simple as that.

MF: And what about the experience of seeing the Muslims in the prison yard? Because they acted? I mean, they, they behave differently because of their faith, right?

BS: Look, you get tested, I mean, if the alpha, you know what I mean? Like, if you don't know, the first prayer, the opening versus you, you can't be You can't fool people, you know what I mean? So the brothers would know, but if you had a genuine heart, that, you know, wanted to truly understand Islam, and, you know, really, deeply read and be educated, then you would be given that, that that opportunity, if you disrespected that, then you obviously, you know, we're treated accordingly to, and I think that's one of the biggest things in there, you know, like, you've got your church services for your Catholics and, you know, your Asian boys in there, you know, they have not a service, but they're strong in their Buddhism or, you know, things like that. But, um, you know, the brothers of Islam will be very proud, very proud of, of their religious background, and, you know, they pray there five times a day,

MF: did you spend time in the Muslim yard, goulburn,

BS: I spent a lot of time everywhere else, but golden baths was like that, silver water was like that. I was there on that turn. So golden had just started to identify race and religion. Because of, you know, the yards, then they were becoming killing yards. So they just started to really push a lot of the brothers together in one yard. So they can contain that that group, you know, a lot of the Islanders, Asians and indigenous. I didn't get the golden and I'm glad I didn't get to go don't care really about God. But, you know, there was many other jails just as bad, if not worse, in some ways, and I think probably golden had a lot more structure because of that, because of the yard separation. You know, if you fucked up within your own your own clinic, well, that's your problem. But, you know, you sort of it was almost like a little bit of a line of command within themselves, if that makes sense. Which, you know, obviously, could work for the screws will work against them. Whereas when you went to other jobs, especially maximum security, Giles, sure, you'd have your brothers there, you know, and then you'd have other yards. But, you know, there was always a lot of mix. It wasn't always predominantly just specific yards. Brent, did

DX: have any kind of mentor figure when you were experiencing this? You know, renewed faith or this trans transformative experience? Was there anyone around you that could provide a bit of guidance?

BS: there was there was Look, I had I was actually really blessed. Like I say, you know, I was lucky enough to grow up around a lot of Muslim Brothers for me. So I was always at their tables, you know, locals always there Ramadan. I was always a part of what their life was like, as a Muslim. So for me, I understood it. Anyway, you know, I instantly could relate. I had respect. You know, I learned a lot. So the brothers gave me that, I guess open arm if I can put it that way. And a lot of love, you know what I mean? Like, I'd go to a jail. And it wouldn't take long before I'd have, you know, my necessities in a nice little bag or some some some extras and food and whatever I needed. And it was always the Shabaab that would look after you, you know what I mean? Any one person will definitely there was one or two, you know, but I think as a brotherhood, and we're talking about jail, and I will speak openly, just because it is all male. Yeah, I was I was a part of some some really, really good brothers.

MF: Did you ever get any blowback from other inmates for joining? or becoming or reverting?

BS: Yeah, look, there was, you know, you get you get, like, more more just that I've seen folks that, you know, had known me before, outside, you know, like, I, for me, Friday, prayer was, you know, the best because it was something to look forward to, you're side by side, you know, you're praying with brothers, you're smiling, you're hugging you. It's a beautiful connection. And it's peaceful. You know, what I mean? Like, the dawn is silent. And the next minute, it's everybody's just in one space, for one reason. And it is a very rewarding thing. You know, in segra, it was very hard, because you'd have one of the brothers call to prayer, and then you know, we'd all be segregated. So none of us would say so, you know, you wouldn't be side by side, basically just touching each other, you know, what I mean? You know, you would be separate, it'd be just you, but you'd hear you know, the beautiful quarter prayer, and then it'd be That's it, you know, you're praying on your own. So, that was totally different, you know, and then when you when people haven't seen you for a while, and you're coming to a new job, or in the yard, and you know, they talk to you, or they look at you a bit funny, and next minute, you know, you sit down with all the problems and start looking at stuff. You know, I like it. It's true, they do. But then at the same time, you know, if you're strong enough in your faith, and if you're strong enough in your in person, it doesn't matter what anyone made for me, it was about me, you know, and I founda very, very, to be honest with you, I feel that me finding faith and being a part of such a brotherhood when I speak of brotherhood, I mean, how you felt like you had family there. You know what I mean? When you wanted to talk to her brother, you could talk to her brother and I'd be honest talk. No bullshit. You could trust the brother. Don't get me wrong. There's always people that aren't trustworthy, and every religious creed and race like it doesn't matter. There's always gonna be but majority Could I have said that, you know, amongst the Ozzy's as such or the others. Now, every time you'd have a conversation, you'd be worried about where it's gonna go. And if you said the right thing, Did I say something wrong? Will it be turned around the wrong way? Is he gonna want to throw blame me because of what he like a test. It's just bad. And it's really, really bad. And it's no good for your head. Fight. We'll fight with his name Islam within this the jail system. It was just peaceful.

MF: Huh? What happens if two Muslims are from different gangs and they come into prison? What I just explained that to

BS: sort of a little bit haram on the we sitting here making these comments, I suppose because you're speaking about two brothers, you know. I think it's more family. It's got nothing to do with faith comes to bloodline. And unfortunately, you know, blood gets spilt. I think I can't really put that any other way.

MF: Yeah, right. So there are fractures that happen. It's not all united at all times.

BS: No, no, it's not I mean, majority Yes. But that's why there's jails were separated inmates and, you know, brothers that are golden and you've got brothers. Take the first chance to pull your eyes out and cut your throat. You know, I tell you, I'll tell you something. The, the indigenous boys, you know, a pretty good light that they look out for each other. You know, don't get me wrong, man. There's some things there that you know, I don't really like that I've seen in there that they, you know, will do to each other. Especially when it comes down to money or drugs. But you know, when you're talking about standing by each other 100% he pretty well, unless you've really been a bad bad person. done some bad things. You'll always have that that brotherhood there. You know, that to me was you know, pretty good. But you know, you get Ozzy's and only fuckin home.

DX: since you've started working on the clink podcast, you've done a lot of work in trying to educate people on the consequences of decisions that that they've made by telling their story, kind of drawing that stuff out. So, I'd like to just focus on that for a little while, I'd like to hear perhaps, like, maybe a couple of examples of stories that you'd heard that you're like, particularly proud of, and fleshing out with people.

BS: Yeah, look, you know, wow, this there is there is quite a few, Russell Manson comes to mind. You know, first and foremost, 21 years jail, half his life as a heroin addict, bank robber. The man was unfortunately put into a prison cell at seven, eight years of age at Long Bay, when I shouldn't have done that he was an 18. They put him in there with being a juvenile with sex offenders, and he was raped by these perpetrators was forced to take heroin was given injection to heroin, in the jail, so so they would basically just take advantage of him. So Russell Mansa today is a powerful voice for an organisation called the voice of the survivor who has helped, I'd have to be up to about 12 13,000 people, survivors seek justice and compensation for any institutional abuse that they have gone through. That's a remarkable turnaround, from a man who, you know, literally was addicted to the devil. And the strength of that is, you know, over and beyond, you know, I think that if anyone's ever seen a heroin addict hanging out, it's, it's not good. You know, and this man's confronted these demons and and each day he leaves still isn't as an ex addict, or a recovering addict, sorry if I can put it that way. But he's since educated himself. He's, he's university degrees. He's, you know, studied law. And he's just an inspiring person, you know, that that right there, to me is probably one of the most powerful stories of redemption.

DX: And aside from the, by being exposed yourself to these inspiring stories, what drew you to doing a podcast? Like what what was that journey like?

BS: So when I got out of jail, let's just backtrack for a second. When I got out of jail, there was two persons that have taken their lives on the run in seguro, which pretty well rattled me because I was someone who lived with suicidality and had attempted my life in younger years. And I thought, that's going to be me. Sooner or later, I'm getting an update from gang sort of life. I needed to make a change. And I knew that I was strong within my own heart. I knew that, you know, I was finding peace within faith. So I had to then go back to who I was. The story for me was wanting to come out and do something good to inspire people, that they can be better. For me, it was about doing something that no one had ever done before. And being seen not notorious, but someone with a heart that's compassionate. Someone that cared. I live with type two bipolar, so I live with a lot of mental health issues. Not so much today. I'm actually quite well, and but, you know, I've dealt with a lot of trauma too. You know, I've, I've done a lot of things in the last five, six years to really change my whole mental state and ability to be able to wake up each day and smile, even in my toughest times. And right now I'm going through some terrible times, but there's a brighter day. I chose to once I finished by probably the first of all, the cycle of pushback across Australia 4564 kilometres from snapper rocks on the Gold Coast to Cottesloe beach in Perth. Now, I did this the 2000 kilometres that with a fractured elbow and didn't tell anybody got rushed to Royal Adelaide Hospital from cijena airlifted had 36 stitches in their operation and within seven days, saw myself out, jump back on the bike did another 2000 kilometres in 10 days. I knew at that stage, I was going to be a better human I was going to be a caring human. I knew while I was out there, I was out there to raise awareness for suicide and bringing noise to the communities into the country people and you know, letting people know how bad things were in the mental health space. It needed attention. I got millions and millions of dollars worth of media you know and that's all I wanted. wasn't about raising money that was bugger or money raised. It was quite sad in that respect. It cost us my wife and I money you know and people that had invested in me to believe Jimmy. So, you know, at that stage, I knew that I could make a difference. And yeah, as time went on, I started a charity called the heavy hitters Foundation, that was very successful, to the point where funding became a problem in the third year, and just couldn't get funding or the bigger organisations were getting allocated, you know, the monies that were there. And it was very, very hard to get someone to be able to write, you know, a grant writer that knew exactly how to pull it, there wasn't already doing it for a corporate company, you know, but I'm proud to say that I took an idea or a vision and turned it into what they cost as a business, which then, you know, not for profit, which then again, a charity status, you don't just get that that's a lot of hard work, you know, you've got to show content, you've got to go right through, especially someone like me with a past like mine, you know, it took months and months and months. And in the end, I was given the proud moment of, you're a successful person, you're a director of a charity, with others, obviously, on the board. But, you know, that to me was successful, that to me, I don't have a trading life, I started to really feel like I was starting my story of redemption. Then I started driving trucks around Australia, I, you know, I jumped in a semi and that was my work for three years, you know, a long haul into the middle of remote Australia top ends, and I got to see so much and meet so many people, I started talking to people and conversations always ended back up into somebody losing someone through suicide, or their own mental health, or just that it was bizarre was drawn to me, I just kept drawing these people in need to have this chat. And maybe me, it was like, I felt like I was out there to provide that he sure was out there earning my living for my family, but there was so much more to it. And that's how I looked at it.

MF: And the best thing about the way that you handle those conversations is you never really bring religion into it for those listening. It's purely it's got nothing to do with that. It's purely you just having conversations with people and helping them and showing them that there's this reason to stick around. And, and

BS: Absolutely, I mean, look, suicidality and mental health, it doesn't discriminate, it will pick anybody from any any race, any religion, you know, we're not, for us, we're all here to be, you know, torn apart by by certain things. And you know, like, death is guaranteed. And, you know, if you are someone that has ends up, you know, living with a trauma or a mental health issue, or, you know, it can be so lonely, you know, it can be so tough, and it doesn't discriminate, it could be your sister, your mom, your dad doesn't tell you what age it's gonna pop up. Where does that come into religion or colour? It doesn't, you know, so? That is 100%. Correct. There is no room for that sort of that thought,

MF: Yeah, I love that what you just said earlier about, you know, you you kind of taught taught yourself that there's, you can be something else, you know, there's always something you can do. You know, so many times when you're involved in that life, it's like, yeah, you feel backed into a corner. And it's like, I got to do this. Because there's not but by by sharing these stories that you like you do, and presenting the world, through various perspectives to these young people who might be in those situations, they know that no matter what you've done, you can reinvent yourself, you can recreate yourself,

BS: you can bring yourself back, but you've got to want to do it. You know, look, I'll be very honest, I, I had this vision to do this ride. I was on parole, you know, federal offenders. So, you know, I had I had like a trainee parole period, you know, one of the longest at that stage because you know, last year to use parole, I got given the big that was just part and parcel couldn't move literally couldn't go across the border, and I lived in a border town to go to work. I had weekly visits for so long, I wasn't a drug use, you know, I didn't have issues. They just wanted me on a tight leash. So in that time, I thought, you know what, I'm going to embrace this, I will do whatever I can work was locally, which was a lot so obviously I had to depend on government assistance back then. And I trained my butt off

you know, I invested in a cycling bike and the bike become a best friend and the best thing I ever did was do it to release my mental blockages you know, and then when that time came, and I say goodbye to my children, my wife, you know, the media. This a fucking media. So the Gold Coast bullet and I'll say their name because it No, no, it's I'm not giving them a pump. I'm just they need to be heard. You know, like, they did an interview with David for a left anyway. This thing of broadbeach the barky big boy had just happened. You know that I think he before or something that was still very fresh. And then all of a sudden he's he's biking. You know x bike he who's in liker and coveting tats about cyclocross, Australia, and who is GPS. So at any time anyone could see where my live beacon was, if you wanted to get me in plenty of places to hide and just popped me clean off the face of the earth. And that was already, you know, not that I'd done anything wrong, in my own said, sort of mind. But, man, I'd done things with others and against others over the years that this could have been a perfect scenario and situation for someone to square up. But that wasn't my issue. In the end, it was the media, they were doing this story. And then the story went from x parking cycles across Australia to raise awareness for mental health to x bar, he states that all current bar keys are weak stick needles into the backsides to build them up, put a tattoo on their face, they'll think they're tough. And just basically, it was their word saying that I was writing them off. You know, it went from these This is beautiful little paragraph to this massive three columns, about by keys, in my opinion, I hadn't said anything. Like my interview was related to the whole ride. There wasn't even conversation of club talk. I mean, I just don't do it. Naturally, I've picked the paper up excited. And it's like, Holy fuck, I can't then I said to my wife. I said, babe, I'm in some trouble.

MF: That's what these reporters don't understand. When they report on these issues. There's real life consequences by keys love gossip, as much as they love reading the paper.

BS: I just left for four and a half 1000 kilometres with one bloke follow me in a car in a caravan. Some of the most loneliest open roads in this country. With a target on my back, people think it's a joke. Like it's not real like the same way young people think that joining gangs isn't real. But what you write down in your report can have serious real life consequences of people being stabbed in jail. People almost been killed in jail because of shit. The crime reporters have been people have been knocked. Yeah. Because of because of what people absolutely and their truth comes out. It's all too late. The person's gone.

MF: Yeah, no, no guys ever answerable to that. But it does pour fuel on fire. Sometimes I know there might just be reporting the truth. But you need to think, well, I'm reporting the truth. But what what are the consequences of this story? What could the potential consequences be for these two people or two parties who are willing to shoot each other? Like you think?

BS: as a journalist? Do you? Do you feel that you guys do have a duty of care?

MF: Well, I certainly do. But I feel like I feel like with crime reporters, they're just so horny for the fucking story for the scoop, that they'll publish whatever, you know. Yeah. And and they don't say no. I mean, let's be Let's be fucking real. Who cares about a criminal? I mean, I've interviewed detectives, and I save criminal and criminal kill each other. Who the fuck is?

BS: Yeah, look, it's hard. So for me, that was a big thing I had to carry in. And Funny enough, they were boycotted, and I removed the online one, but the print had already gone out. You know, so, you know, and I received a big apology. I'm thinking, yeah, your apology will apologise to my wife and kids, if I got knocked out of a fucking something that you wrote that had nothing to do with what the interview was about.

MF: What has been the one conversation or experience that you think has had the biggest kind of effect on your redemption? That you that you kind of think back on or are constantly entangled in?

BS: You know, what, um, that's a really, really fair question. And one that I've never thought about, I've never been asked if I could put it down to any one thing, I would say it's my children. And I really have to, I mean, my oldest son is 22. And he's a very successful student. Still, He's, uh, he's doing his diploma, I think his deployment as a sound engineer, and he's 22 and he's doing his diploma now and then moving up. And he's the top 2% of Queensland for his studies, he's, you know, excelling, high distinctions, distinctions and everything. So, you know, I could have really destroyed his life by choices. I didn't hear or see him for many, many years, and I wanted him in my life. So that was a major part, you know, not seeing my middle son born because of my choices. My daughter's vision impaired, not being there. And she she's 14 now and I was everything to her and then I left her. You know, like, how do you how do you as a human, let alone a father put anything else in front of those people. You can. And for me, it needed to change, it has to change, I still daily need to keep that reminding myself that there's a path I'm on and I must stick to it, especially in the times that, you know, we're struggling at the moment in a big way. We don't have a home we've just to no fault of ours been put into a granny flat five of us $800 a week? Yeah, because the owner decided after two years, just wanted to renovate, not the rent, you know, I felt like doing something that I would have done. And I had to stop, you know, I really did. And I just went, I need to protect my children, I need to do what's right, I need to be here. You know, I've had to stop driving trucks around Australia to be present to be able to be strong and have them know that dad's here. You know, and we will get through this. Now, I feel that that alone is enough. For for me wanting to find redemption.

DX: Brent, there was one thing you mentioned at the start that I feel would give this a bit of closure was that you said that you had a bit more perspective on your relationship with your father that you've kind of come to terms with that. And you hinted that you might talk about it later. So sure, so maybe we could close with that.

BS: Yeah, look. As I said, you know, like growing up, my father was quite a violent, alcoholic, workaholic. I was being sexually abused by neighbours, by brothers, Maurice brothers at school. I remember telling my father My father literally just turned and went, why'd you lie on back enemy four foot in the air. And, you know, it was just something you couldn't mention. And we today a very, very close after many, many years of rebuilding our relationship, and I love him dearly, and he's not a well, man. And we've gotten to really talk as to men. And I'll never forget him one night and please God, he doesn't hear this. I'm thinking I'm talking out of school, but I think it's important and you know that the world understand certain things and you know, I I was very bitter, very angry at my dad growing up because of who he was and what happened to me. Why didn't he protect me? Why did he constantly flog me, you know, what, what was it I got taken out of his custody at 10 and put into foster care, because the way he was, but he was only a product of his own environment. His father was no different. He was raped sodomised by a Scoutmaster for years, when he was a kid,

now, even talking about it now rips my heart out. And that takes, I don't even think of what I went through. Because I think fact that's my dad. I get it. I get it. I understand what this man carried for all those years and attorney now and his lack of life, that we've been able to talk about this and he felt comfortable to open up. And I just hugged him and I said, I love you that like that moment, for me was the biggest turning point of me feeling any, any carrying any anger or any animosity for what took place. I get. I'm a father now I fucked up. I look at my sons as my older son, you know what I mean? And I'm, you know, I wasn't, I wasn't ever violent towards him. He never went through anything. But I went through but I was aggressive. In the presence of his mom, I was aggressive in the presence of him as a child, my mannerisms and how I carried on that traumatised him. You know what I mean? That that gave him fucking nightmares. You know, he's dead was just this maniac. You know, I did things. You know, that shouldn't have been done. But we can talk about it. And he'll open he knows my story. Like I was on SBS on insight they did, I am breaking the cycle. And I asked my son, would you would you come and accompany me and come down there. He's a man at that stage, you know, and we did it together. And I felt that that was a very powerful thing for him to understand who his dad was and me being able to speak that on national TV for my father to open up and remain Tell me these things. Man, rip my heart to pieces. And you know, I'm forever grateful. Because I have closure from that. I can understand. I think it and I love my dad.

If anything in this episode has triggered distress, please contact Lifeline on 131114, anytime for confidential telephone crisis support