News

Uneasy riders: bikers caught in anti-association laws

The Independents on a ride. Photo: Robyne Cuerel / Fraser Coast Chronicle
The Independents on a ride. Photo: Robyne Cuerel / Fraser Coast Chronicle Robyne Cuerel

THEY were meant to target criminals.

But Queensland's anti-bikie laws have created a net that has spread so wide its catch includes the innocent as much as the guilty.

And they threaten a culture almost as old as the motorcycle itself, radiating tremors throughout the motorcycle community and putting its very existence at risk.

Since Queensland introduced the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act (VLAD) late last year, if you are a leather clad motorbike rider, the time of reckoning is here and you are guilty until proven innocent.

That's how it seems to local riders.

Where once you could judge a bikie or biker by their colours, this is no longer the case since bikies are not permitted to wear the patches that once identified them.

And now, it's almost impossible to spot the difference.

Yet there is a big difference in the motorbike community between a bikie and a biker.

The latter include respectable citizens, many who enjoy aspects of the motorcycle culture without the criminal element.

Darren Thompson is a husband, a father who works fulltime in Maryborough.

He is bald, sports a goatee beard and rides a Harley-Davidson.

Although he has not been intercepted by the police, he said it was the public discrimination that was the thorn in his side.

"My wife and I walked into Maccas. There was a lady standing in line. I asked if she's been served. She looked us up and down like we were criminals, ignored us and walked off," he said.

Bikers such as Lizzie Walker, the public relations officer for the recently formed Independent Riders group, said she had noticed a big change in the public's attitude toward them since the VLAD laws were introduced.

It's scaring a lot of people who once donated goods for our raffles and charities.

"When I ask businesses for sponsorship they back off and say 'no, the rules have changed now.'"

She said by this time of the year she usually had $2000 worth of goods to raffle, but would be lucky if there was $300 in the kitty.

Lizzie said she had been riding since before she was born.

Her mother, Irene, owned and rode an Indian motorcycle while she was pregnant.

A group of the Independent Riders stop for a break at Howard after a short ride. Photo: Robyne Cuerel / Fraser Coast Chronicle
A group of the Independent Riders stop for a break at Howard after a short ride. Photo: Robyne Cuerel / Fraser Coast Chronicle Robyne Cuerel

And it's that freedom and community they wished to preserve.

Michael Tucker, 53, said the Independent Riders group was about respect and independence of fellow riders.

"Those that ride under this banner accept that people have varying abilities to contribute, respect the word of each person that no one person is more important than the other.

"While there is no formal hierarchy, there is an ownership, a feeling that they are part of something."

Mr Tucker said he enjoyed the charity work, riding and the mateship which he likened to an extended family.

Independent rider Sean Fisher (pictured on the cover) said the benefits of being a part of a biker community were many.

He only wished the public would not "judge a book by its cover".

He stressed they were law-abiding people.

"You go for a ride and all of your stresses and anxieties blow away in the wind."

Mr Fisher believed if more people rode a motorbike, there would be less need for mental services.

"Motorbikes are only one facet.

"We're mothers and fathers.

"We don't have anything to do with criminal elements yet we've been caught up in the same net and typecast as a lesser person.

Independent Riders public relations officer Lizzie Walker greets fellow biker Chris Williams. Both women have ridden motorbikes all of their lives. Photo: Robyne Cuerel / Fraser Coast Chronicle
Independent Riders public relations officer Lizzie Walker greets fellow biker Chris Williams. Both women have ridden motorbikes all of their lives. Photo: Robyne Cuerel / Fraser Coast Chronicle Robyne Cuerel

"This is your average bloke who likes riding a bike."

Accredited school bus driver Mark McKechnie has enjoyed the past seven years riding with three local social groups, being the president of one.

He said he loved working with kids and being able to help the disadvantaged.

Over the years they have raised a formidable amount for charities.

He admitted bikies and bikers were now all tarred with the same brush.

Despite this, he still loved the freedom and brotherhood but conceded it was being slowly taken away.

Officer in charge of the Maryborough District CIB, Detective Senior Sergeant Nikki Colfs, said the legislation was not aimed at people who liked to ride motorcycles or who rode for charity organisations.

"The legislation (VLAD laws) is aimed at criminal motorcycle gangs and people affiliated with an organised crime network."

Det Snr Sgt Colfs said there were many rides conducted around the Fraser Coast which were not affiliated with outlaw gangs.

"People are intercepted all of the time as normal policing activities - random road tests, breath tests," she said.

If they aren't affiliated, they don't have anything to worry about.

"It doesn't matter what type of motorcycle they ride - I don't think a Harley-Davidson identifies specifically with a criminal motorcycle gang."

Despite the current political and policing crackdown, the social motorbike riders around the Fraser Coast, specifically the Independents Riders are ploughing on, maintaining their charity work, which included an ongoing relationship with Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus and more recently the Maryborough Animal Refuge.

"This year our aim is to donate $6-7000 to Spina Bifida," Mr Tucker said.

Bikies v bikers

  • There are 26 declared criminal organisations listed in the legislation
  • There are over 700,000 registered motorbike riders in Australia
Biker Sean 'Fish' Fisher.
Biker Sean 'Fish' Fisher. Robyne Cuerel

Topics:  bikers, bikies, hervey bay, maryborough, vlad laws




Mum injured saving daughter from kangaroo

KANGAROO ATTACK: A little girl from Point Vernon was taken to hospital after a roo scratched her face and chest in the property next to her home.

Girl's mum was also injured in the kangaroo attack.

No more trespassing as Urangan path opened

NEW WAY: One of the first to use the new crossing was Stephanie Gaudin with daughter Lucy and dog Bruce. With Butchulla man Dustyn Currie is Rose McVeigh, Glen Winney from Win Projects and Cr George Seymour.

Urangan crossing comes alive

Latest deals and offers

What's on the big screen this week

Toby Kebbell and Jack Huston in a scene from the movie Ben-Hur.

AN OLD classic returns to the big screen with a new young star.

Bachelor Richie gives bacon-loving Noni the boot

Noni Janur features on this season of The Bachelor.

TOOWOOMBA swimwear designer still single but focusing on her career.

Zumbo's Just Desserts serves up magical dishes

Gigi Falanga, left, joins hosts Adriano Zumbo and Rachel Khoo on the TV series Zumbo's Just Desserts.

ADRIANO Zumbo’s decadent creations have become prime-time viewing.

Sir Cliff Richard feels 'best' after sex abuse allegations

Sir Cliff Richard is 'back' to his best after sex abuse claims

Blac Chyna sued after car injured 2 women

Blac Chyna is being sued after her friend crashed into another car

Chris Hemsworth surprises kids at hospital as Thor

Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston surprised children at hospital

ISLAND FOR SALE: Cheap Fraser Coast island drops price again

Suna Island in the Great Sandy Strait will be auctioned by Ray White Hervey Bay on Saturday morning.

This is the cheapest island you will find for sale in Australia

How a family home can fit on a 250sq m block

This is what you can build on 250m2.

Here's the floor plan of a home built on 250sq m

$100m plan for Curtis Island 'world class' luxury resort

$100 million resort: Top views at Turtle Street at Curtis Island.

"At the moment we think it meets all the town planning approvals.”

Coast building approvals at seven-year high: report

The the 2015/16 Development Indicators Annual Highlights Report documents local development activity that took place during the last financial year.

New report shows increasing development on the Sunshine Coast

Top honours for Mackay and Whitsunday builders

The Kerrisdale Gardens property from Paynter Dixon Queensland which won them Project of the Year.

Mackay and Whitsunday builders awarded top honours last night.