Lance Daly is providing free tattoo removal to people who have gang markings they want to remove as part of a positive life transformation. (ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)
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Lance Daly has been through a heroin addiction, multiple stints in jail and gang violence and now wants to help people remove the ink of their past that is stifling their future.
- Lance Daly is providing free laser tattoo removal to people who want to remove gang tattoos
- He is a former gang member and drug addict who has spent time in jail
- A newfound passion for Christianity has fuelled his transformation in life
Mr Daly believes a religious intervention gave him a second chance at life, and now he wants to try and provide the same opportunity to others who have been on a similar journey.
Mr Daly’s expertise has always been in the tattoo parlour, but this is a story about tattoo removal. Gang tattoo removal, specifically.
“We decided that [we would provide the service for] anyone who was struggling with the brandings of gang or racist groups or post code gangs,” he said.
“It’s for people who want to change their life and get employment
“We can remove their tattoos for free and help them get over the anxiety involved in what has happened to them, the groups they’ve been in or the situations they’ve been in during their lives.
Former tattooist Lance Daly has found religion has helped transform his life. (ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)
He is in contact with a woman who was tattooed by her partner in a domestic violence assault.
Another man wanted the infamous ‘1%’ motorcycle gang tattoo removed.
Another wants to remove a swastika tattoo he had inked when he was trying to fit in with a group of skinheads.
Mr Daly operates the service out of his wife’s tattoo shop south of Wollongong on the New South Wales South Coast.
“People tend to judge you and automatically think you’re a bad person,” Rebecca Caruana said.
“If we can help someone to not feel that way that’s changed their life around, I’m all for that,” she said.
Lance Daly moved to the Illawarra to change his life and pursue a relationship with Rebecca Caruana, who is now his wife. (ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)
Family tragedy led to gangs and drugs
Mr Daly’s descent into the criminal world started with the death of his mother.
“I went down the road of drugs, ended up a heroin addict and spent some time incarcerated.”
He got clean through a methadone program and dedicated his time to martial arts training.
But the death of his father years later caused the same downward spiral.
“I found myself making the same silly decisions,” he said.
“I was involved in crime and got incarcerated and when I got out, I was involved in gangs and drugs again.”
After several years, he decided he wanted to change his life, so he quit his gang and was bashed by them for doing so.
Bruised and with a broken nose, he drove from Western Australia where he was living, across the Nullarbor Plain to the Illawarra in New South Wales.
A crucifix hangs in Lance Daly’s laser tattoo removal studio in Warrawong. (ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)
‘I’m in the best gang in the world now — God’s gang’
As part of his new life in the Illawarra, Mr Daly joined the small Pentecostal Transforming Waters Church in Windang.
It was here he uncovered a faith that he believes kept him alive during his days of crime and drugs, he just did not know it at the time.
He also found a healthier community to be part of.
“That’s part of the reason where Australian males fall down is the lack of camaraderie,” he said.
“You can get it in certain groups like the police, firies, ambulance or gangs.
“I believe these people in gangs have had trauma in their life and they need to belong to something.
“I’m in the best gang in the world now and that’s God’s gang — I’ve found full acceptance and camaraderie in a little church.”
Ms Caruana sees his work removing gang tattoos as a way of practising the teachings of their faith.
“The church is a strong foundation for us, we’re spiritual people and if we’re not helping each other and doing something, what’s the point of life?”