76 foster homes, to jail ... but then to Christ
A story of “astounding transformation”
At just ten years old, Shane Mayne became a ward of the state.
“I didn’t really have much to do with my family,” Shane admits to Eternity.
“When I was young I didn’t want to be told what to do. So I spent a lot of time roaming the streets.”
Shane grew up in Launceston, Tasmania, as the oldest of five children, along with his brother and three sisters. His father, who worked in a timber mill, was “a fairly strict man”, says Shane. He would come home from work and often be quite distant, so he didn’t spend much time interacting with the family. And so Shane’s mother carried much of the responsibility for raising the children.
Unfortunately, as Shane kept running away from home to spend time on the streets, he got caught up with the wrong crowd.
“They were probably not the right type of friends – not like the friends I’ve got now,” he explains.
“I abused alcohol and drugs, and it went downhill from there.”
“I didn’t trust anyone. I hated the system. I hated the world. It was like a rollercoaster.” – Shane
After being placed in the care of the state, Shane soon wound up in Ashley Youth Detention Centre in central north Tasmania, after attacking a police officer. During his time in detention, Shane shares that he was abused.
Then began a long cycle of going in and out of different foster homes, between periods in Ashley Detention Centre. In fact, during his childhood, Shane was placed in 76 different foster homes.
“I didn’t want to stay anywhere long,” Shane says. “I wanted to go home but I couldn’t go home because I didn’t want to be told what to do.
“But none of these [foster homes] felt like home. I felt more safe on the streets with my friends or in Ashley [Detention Centre] than I did in foster homes.”
He adds: “I didn’t trust anyone. I hated the system. I hated the world. It was like a rollercoaster. I kept on going backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards.”
Shane also bounced from school to school, before quitting school altogether halfway through his first year of high school in Year 7.
The road to jail
At age 18, Shane’s state wardship ended. He reconnected with his family on and off, but continued his life of drug and alcohol abuse with his friends. Then at 24, Shane was involved in an accident that changed his life forever.
“I was out of town with some friends, drinking and taking drugs,” Shane recalls.
“I was involved in a car accident. This person got hit. I wasn’t the driver but I was in the car, so I was guilty, more or less, from day one.”
Reflecting on the event, he adds: “I regret what happened that night, but there is nothing I can do about it. I wish it never, ever happened, but it did.”
Shane was arrested at the scene and went straight into custody. He was charged with a serious offence and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
“To start off it was pretty rough, it was scary,” Shane says about his time in prison. “I didn’t know anyone. Then when I got into the yard and met some other people, I was always looked after. I was pretty young when I first went in there.”
Shane admits to continuing to use drugs and alcohol during the first few years in prison. But then he made a decision to “get clean” by participating in a treatment program in jail. He has not abused drugs or alcohol since.
“We got talking and [Paul] said, ‘Would you be willing to go to church?'” – Shane
Also during his years in jail, Shane discovered his love of serving others. During his early years there, he was given the responsibility of helping in the kitchen. Later, near the end of his 14.5 years in prison, he was volunteering as a dog-handler for the RSPCA.
So when Shane finally came up for parole, he says, “I wanted something different to do. I didn’t want to get released and get back out there with the same people and then get put back in.
“So I asked, ‘What can I do out there to better myself and meet different people?’
The prison put Shane in touch with Paul Hayes, who works for William Wilberforce Foundation – a Christian organisation that supports churches and community groups to care for marginalised and disadvantaged Australians. Paul is the Tasmanian coordinator of the Foundation’s Caring For Ex-Offenders program, based at Door of Hope Christian Church in Launceston. The ex-offenders program offers practical and emotional help to re-integrate into the community.
Shane describes his first Skype session with Paul before he was released from prison: “I looked at him and I thought, ‘I know you.'”
It turns out that Paul had worked with Shane years earlier – when Shane was a child and Paul worked as a psychologist for Tasmania’s Disability Services in a Challenging Behaviours Unit.
“We got talking and [Paul] said, ‘Would you be willing to go to church?'” Shane recalls. “I said, ‘I’ll give anything a go really.”
So Shane went along to church at Door of Hope. He soon became a volunteer there one day a week, mowing lawns and cleaning out the church’s storage facility.
The journey to transformation
Only a month after leaving prison in July 2019, Shane took part in an addiction recovery course, which was run by Paul at the church.
“I didn’t have a drug and alcohol problem at that time, but I just wanted to readdress what I did in jail,” says Shane, referring to the years when he did have addictions.
Paul notes that Shane also provided emotional support to other participants in the course. Not only did Shane beat drugs and alcohol, Paul points out, but he has also shed half his body weight.
“His transformation has been astounding – physically, emotionally and spiritually,” remarks Paul.
After leaving prison, Shane moved back in with his mother and began the journey towards reconciliation.
“It was a bit hard to start off with,” he admits, “but now we get on well. We’re pretty close.”
Again, Paul interjects into the conversation to sing Shane’s praises. He notes how Shane is caring for his mum who has significant physical disabilities. Shane is also helping to care for his six-year-old niece.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Shane, humbly.
“One day I said … ‘I want to be baptised and hand everything over to Jesus.'” – Shane
But the most significant change in Shane’s life came when he made the decision to become a Christian.
“One day I said to Paul, ‘I want to be baptised and hand everything over to Jesus.’ I said, ‘I can’t hold on to things any longer. I want to hand it all over Jesus,'” Shane shares.
And so on March 15, 2020, Paul baptised Shane in front of the congregation at Door of Hope.
From this moment, Shane felt it was like, “letting go of all the hurts and what I had done, and being able to move on.
“God has done some amazing things for me since I got out of jail. I’m involved with some amazing people who I class as family,” he adds, referring to his friends at Door of Hope.
Now as well as being a regular member of the congregation, Shane attends a small group. He continues to volunteer at the church’s storage facility and is now also part of the service team, welcoming people to Sunday services and helping to set up and pack up for Alpha courses (when not in lockdown).
“It’s changed my life in a big way – how I think, how I speak to other people, how I react,” says Shane about becoming a Christian.
“When I went to jail, I used to just take things off people. But now, if I see someone struggling, I’ll go up and say, ‘Do you want a dollar? Do you want food or some money to get on the bus? Or if I see an old lady walking across the road, I automatically just go and help that person. Even police officers, now when I walk past them, I say hello …
“If it wasn’t for Paul getting me to where I am now, I would either be dead or back in jail,” he confesses.
But after more than two years on the outside, Shane, now 43, says there is no way he is ever going back to prison.
When asked about his hopes for the future, Shane concludes: “I’m going to keep on going the way I am, and to grow more towards Jesus and learn more about him.”