Stab Magazine | A “Wannabe” Bra Boy And His Brother Charged For Murdering A Homeless Man



A “Wannabe” Bra Boy And His Brother Charged For Murdering A Homeless Man

Do the Bra Boys have a poser problem?

news // Aug 3, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The full picture of what lead to the stabbing death of 68-year-old former bus driver turned homeless man, Peter Hofman, in a Maroubra street last month, are not fully clear and won’t be until court proceedings wrap up in the next few months.

Last Thursday, however, two young brothers from Matraville, Ray and Jackson Travers, were charged with his murder. Police allege the pair had left a party just a street away from where the car Mr Hofmann was sleeping in was parked.

Police also allege the party spilt out into the park near where Hofman was parked and between 9:40 and 9:50 pm police the Travers brothers murdered Mr Hofman.

What is clear is that Ray, 20, had the words My Brother’s Keeper tattooed across his stomach – a favourite among several high profile Bra Boys. He has also been described by an associate as a “wannabe” member of the so-called surf gang.

Ray and his brother Jackson, aged 18, are also accused of gatecrashing a 16-year-old girl’s birthday party two weeks after the alleged stabbing murder. In the ensuing brawl one of the alleged victims, a 16-year-old, was brutally beaten and left concussed with a 20 cm laceration to his mouth and no front teeth. Police said he was punched in the back of the head and had his head and neck stomped on. The father of the birthday girl was also allegedly assaulted along with a 32-year-old security guard.

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Smirnoff Ice, the official drink of a “wannabe” Bra Boy. Ray Travers, the accused, is the only clear face. 

Ray and his brother Jackson are each facing charges of reckless grievous bodily harm, two of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in the company of others and one count of affray for the brawl.

Speaking to Bra Boy, Mark Mathews earlier in the year, he told Stab it was exactly stuff like this that led him to distance himself from certain elements within the community that were also causing a large “split” between different groups in the suburb.

“It started to go to shit. It started to become about drugs and violence,” recalls Mark of the beginning of the divide, which he pinpoints as the release of the wildly successful Bra Boys documentary in 2007.

“If it wasn’t proving yourself fighting, it was proving how long you could bend for, how many nights you could stay up, how many drugs you could take, and that’s when it got split,” he says.

It wasn’t just Maroubra. The film spawned a whole nation of wannabe spin-off gangsters. You’d find them everywhere from Bulli to Bondi, Byron Bay and beyond. High profile Australian comedian, Chris Lilley, even parodied the phenomenon in the Mucca Madboys skit on the ABC and in the HBO series Angry Boys. If you grew up on the east coast of Australia in the 2000s, chances are you were either a victim of the fad, a perpetrator, or both (guilty).

“Overall (the film) had a pretty bad effect,” said Mark, pausing to choose his words carefully.

“I thought it gave a message that was really good and was multicultural. I felt that was amazing, especially at a time after the (Cronulla) riots happened. I love that message from the movie.”

“But I also think it made the young generation of kids growing up here think that it was all about fighting at Maroubra and causing trouble. So many kids wanted to be Bra Boys because of how famous the doco was. That part of it was kind of shit,” he says.

Why gangs of overwhelmingly white, working-class and middle-class men around the country were banding together to ‘stick up for themselves,’ ‘represent their post-codes,’ and ‘defend their turf’ could never properly be explained. So I travelled the east coast in the late 2000s searching for an answer, in part to explain how I was sucked into the nonsense, and why others might be attracted to it. I came up with two answers.

The first was historical and cultural. Somewhere between the ANZACs, Ned Kelly, our convict roots, unemployment-rife housing commission ghettoes, State of Origin, and the Bra Boys, a virulent strain of machismo culture had settled in as the norm among Australian youth. Who they were defending their suburbs from was never properly articulated (often a mirror image of themselves from the next suburb over).

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The crime scene on Mons Ave after Mr Hofman’s body was discovered. Photo: Janie Barrett / SMH

And while they could point out where and who they represented (it was often written on them as a post code), there was no idea what they stood for. They could only hollow platitudes about mateship, brotherhood and sticking up for each other.

“Young men just wanna be a part of something. That’s what made this so appealing to everyone – the Bra Boys,” says Mark.

Often it became difficult to find a willing enemy. So they’d just attack old people on their way home from the RSL, or, in this case, asleep in a car.

In the rare instance that an individual or group would stand their ground, the fights were rarely fair. Dog shots, glass bottles to the head, outnumbering and ambushing opponents at parties, were the norm; the aggressors returning to a nearby pub or mate’s house to confirm each others’ dishonour with more hollow platitudes like, ‘he deserved it,’ and ‘fuck him, he’s from (insert nearby suburb).’

Sometimes, but definitely not always (or even often), the offenders were genuinely broken people from broken homes, raised by role models with terrible values (who were often part of the same cycle). These kids were confused and deranged, beset by all kinds of undiagnosed mental health issues stemming from childhood trauma, abuse and neglect.

Leading youth psychologist, Michael Carr-Gregg calls these broken youths “the new breed” of Australian male.

”I am increasingly seeing a new breed of extremely narcissistic, under-fathered adolescent male,” he says.

”He is beset with rigid, inflexible thinking, has no respect for authority, little exposure to tradition or ritual and has few, if any, skills in anger management.”

Whether Ray and Jackson Travers fit this category is unclear though their father was a well-known local boxer whose career was derailed by alcoholism.

The violence, drugs, notoriety, instant gratification and manipulative one-way friendships offered by older, harder, criminals can appear as a dream come true to broken kids. The solution? Heavy policing and prison* is the most common. But statistics suggest this is unlikely to produce reformed, functioning members of society. It’s also further punishing the victims in a way that ensures the cycle continues. If they are problems of the mind we are trying to solve, as psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg suggests, then mental health professionals might be the best placed to solve them.

*The author’s adopted-brother is currently serving a ten-month sentence in Junee Correctional Centre.


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