Retired tattoo artist removing gangland tattoos for free

Laser: Lance Daly removing the "one per cent" tattoo that weighs heavy on the chest of Luke Hainsworth.
Laser: Lance Daly removing the "one per cent" tattoo that weighs heavy on the chest of Luke Hainsworth.

Luke Hainsworth doesn't shy away from his violent past.

He was a "one per center" - that dangerous "minority" of gang members who broke the law, hurt people, showed no remorse and left a trail of destruction.

The Woonona man served more than five years in jail for the violent attack on a party-goer that left the other guy with serious head injuries.

That was his life back then. Violence and drugs was what he knew so it's no surprise he became a club enforcer and sergeant at arms. It was a "natural progression", he says.

You can polish the outside of something so it looks clean and not touch the inside and not know until you look in.

Luke Hainsworth

Bullied as a kid, and still bearing the scar across his face of a brutal slashing aged 18 that could have killed him, Luke learnt at a young age how to communicate with violence.

At age 20 he was head-hunted by a gang for his reputation around Wollongong and spent eight years using violence to coerce, collect debts and instill fear.

Then his world changed. A total of 12 months in solitary confinement gave Luke time to think, "feel God's presence" and repent.

"I take my shirt off at the beach, people see the 'one per cent', you see families literally pick up and move and it breaks your heart," he said. "I know my heart."

New man: Luke Hainsworth wants to warn teenagers of the dangers and darkness of joining bikie gangs. He's rebuilding his life. Pictures: Adam McLean

New man: Luke Hainsworth wants to warn teenagers of the dangers and darkness of joining bikie gangs. He's rebuilding his life. Pictures: Adam McLean

His mate and another former gang member, Lance Daly, who has his own violent back story, has helped take some of the scars away.

Lance is removing the "one per cent" tattoo that brands him and reminds himself of his ugly drug-fuelled past.

It's a series of painful laser sessions, worth hundreds of dollars, that Lance is doing for free.

"I want to help people who want to make something of themselves to get ahead and not be disadvantaged and discriminated against because of their past," Lance said.

"Anyone that has any sort of markings from gangs or racist or even just silly words on them, tattoos that are affecting their possibilities at work or socially affecting them, or causing them anxiety, we will remove for free," he said.

"Laser is quite expensive, it's a big thing, but if it can help people get a job or just feel better about themselves, it's worth it. That's something God's put on my heart."

Lance, who served jail time for deprivation of liberty, is offering the service at his partner Rebecca Caruana's tattoo saloon in Warrawong. She has helped him turn his life around.

Common bond: Lance Daly and Luke Hainsworth share a dark past and a bright future helping others.

Common bond: Lance Daly and Luke Hainsworth share a dark past and a bright future helping others.

While in jail and after years of heavy drug abuse, Lance realised he couldn't go on the way he was.

"I had a call on my heart to be a better person ... I got in contact with the love of my life and started talking to her. She said she didn't want anything to do with it. I didn't want anything to do with it anymore."

In that moment he decided to leave gang life. Now both men are living a life that's crime-free.

Both are devoted to God, and to taking the shine off gang life. They have a message for teens desperate to find somewhere to "fit in".

"Don't even think about it," Luke said. "You can polish the outside of something so it looks clean and not touch the inside and not know until you look in. I'm referring to a shit bowl. Don't do it, don't go down that path. It's all a facade."

Both former gang members say their reasons for joining a gang are not unusual. Members were usually shy, anxious children who never feel like they belong.

"Gangs promise loyalty and respect but there's nothing like that in the underworld ... There is no brotherhood there," Luke said.

"The only reason a young man joins a gang is because he's looking for love and loyalty but he won't find it."

Lance agrees. "The gang was like another false idol in my life," he said. "I was very unhappy drinking heavily, taking every party drug there was."

He says God showed him a way out. "I've found true comradery now in my church, people that love me unconditionally. It's amazing."

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