Dr Yi-Ning Chiu1, Dr Julianne L Webster1
1Queensland Police Service, Brisbane, Australia
In 2020, the Queensland Police Service and Australian Institute of Criminology completed a research study on outlaw motorcycle gang (OMCG) pathways. Drawing on semi structured interviews with 52 former OMCG members, our collaborative research study explored the factors which influence individuals to join and disaffiliate from OMCGs. Due to the innovative nature of the study, lengthy ethical processes and considerations were undertaken, including around data de-identification, safety protocols and participant selection.
Social bonds emerged as the key factor for understanding Australian OMCGs. The same social bonds of brotherhood cited by many as the main reason for joining OMCGs also became the same reason for leaving, including a perceived change in club leadership or culture or the importance of other relationships related to their partner or family taking precedence.
Our study findings show OMCG disaffiliation is associated with a range of unique challenges, including: experiencing violence, property or financial loss, employment difficulties, police attention, and mending negative impacts of club membership on family/relationships. The availability of support systems, employment assistance, education and positive mentors would help facilitate the disaffiliation process and overcome existing barriers.
The findings give insight to the disaffiliation support needs of members, and inform the development of Queensland’s OMCG Exit Program, which aims to facilitate former OMCG members to disaffiliate and reduce reoffending and costs to the community. The study was vital to gain understanding of the experiences and decision-making of former OMCG members to inform the current gaps in evidence and tailor responses to the local context.
Winnie Chiu, PhD is a Principal Research Officer in the Queensland Police Service. Previously she also worked as a Research Fellow, lecturer and research assistant at Griffith University. Her work has been published in several journals, including the British Journal of Criminology, Crime & Delinquency, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology and Sexual Abuse.
Julianne Webster, PhD is Manager of Analytics in the Queensland Police Service. She has a collective 25 years’ experience in criminal justice analytics, intelligence, research, evaluation, policy, statistics as well as academia.