Shane "Kiwi" Martin was a man who was defined by labels. He was a bikie. A gang member. A 501 deportee.
These labels gave people all they needed to know about Shane: he was trouble.
have been trouble. He sure looked like trouble; tattoos covered much of his body, and some of those were confronting.
The tattoos had a lot of canvas. Shane was built; carved full of muscles and impeccably dressed. He also smelled good. He'd shower three times a day, sometimes more. His house, his cars and motorcycles were always spotless.
People who met Shane for the first time were immediately disarmed by him. They liked him and were drawn to him. He was warm, friendly and generous. He kept a drawer full of lollies for kids who visited his house.
He also carried the burden of great bitterness; a bitterness that ate away at him. A
bitterness that stabbed at him from the moment he woke, chased him throughout the day
and invaded his dreams at night.
Shane had been forcibly removed from his family. He missed them all, but particularly his
Shane Martin departed Huntly for Australia when he was 20. His upbringing hadn't been
flash – awful, in fact – and he left it all behind to start again.
He met a woman and had three boys. Each of those kids grew to be successful. Notably, one served the Australian military in Afghanistan and another, Dustin "Dusty" Martin, who, still at the peak of his career is being talked about as potentially the greatest AFL player of all time.
Shane loved his three boys like nothing else. He talked about them all the time. He agonised when his youngest son served overseas, he wasn't sure the boy was sturdy enough, and he was proud to be proven wrong.
After coaching his lads when they were kids, Shane never missed a footy match when Dusty turned professional, once flying halfway across Australia and back – midway through a motorcycle run – just to watch his boy play for Richmond.
In the meantime, Shane built a successful trucking business. It damn near went bust during the GFC, but he fought through. He borrowed money and worked hours on end to make the business work. A multi-truck freight company is a big deal. This is a story of a battler come good.
But it wasn't trucks that defined him in the end, it was motorcycles. Shane joined the
Rebels, Australia's largest outlaw motorcycle club. He enjoyed riding and he loved the
brotherhood; as do some many who grew up with splintered and dysfunctional families.
Shane was deported from Australia on "bad character" grounds in 2016 – seemingly because of his membership of the Rebels. That membership wasn't illegal. If he'd been given a choice to break from the club to stay with his family, he would have chosen his family. He wasn't given that choice.
And so he became a number, he became a 501. He was held in a detention centre until he
was deported to New Zealand. There was no evidence he was some gang crook, as many
readers of this will imagine. In fact, no evidence has ever been presented to suggest that at all, but he was torn from his family nevertheless. On that basis it was a remarkable abuse of power and a terrible injustice.
Last week Shane Martin died all alone in New Zealand, face-down on his kitchen floor.
I learned my emotions from the old school, meaning I suppress them. But I shed tears when I heard from a journalist that Shane had died, and again when I spoke to his wife in Australia, although I hoped she didn't notice.
The tears came again the next day when I messaged his three boys.
Shane would have told me to harden up. He, too, was old school.
I saw him cry once. In fact, he told me he'd become somewhat weepy in recent times. It was the bitterness he felt – it wore him down. But he still would have told me to pull it together right now, and I would have appreciated him for it.
It's better to move on than be mired. It's better to focus on the great things that happen in
life rather than the awful things. But this is a tragedy that deserves attention, not in memory of Shane but because of the importance of his case.
Yet it isn't the injustice of Shane's last years that makes me cry as I write this now. It isn't
the demonstrable toll that this ordeal placed on his family. Nor is it the idea that the labels
placed on him didn't reflect the qualities of the man. It's just the fact that I've lost a mate.
I will never see him again and I'm not ready to believe that, even though I know I must.
Goodbye, Kiwi, you weren't what the labels suggested. You were a good man, and I will miss you.
Go home now to your family and to your sons, they are waiting for you.
Dr Jarrod Gilbert is a sociologist at the University of Canterbury and the Director of Independent Research Solutions. He wrote the book, A Rebel in Exile: The extraordinary story of Shane 'Kiwi' Martin and his battle to return to his home and family.