He was one of Australia’s most feared gang members, but Michael LaHoud has turned his back on crime to be a single dad to his three little daughters.
LaHoud’s children were conceived during conjugal visits at Long Bay Prison where he was serving a lengthy sentence for armed robbery. His time behind bars took its toll on his wife who left him shortly after his release. “My wife just said to me; ‘I don’t want to deal with them anymore’, and just took off,” LaHoud told the Sunday Telegraph. Left to raise three young girls – daughters Millie, Catalina and Armani (now aged four, five and six) – LaHoud embraced the role. It was a turning point.
“I didn’t know how to deal with three daughters,” he admits. “You know, all three crying at the same time and getting them ready for school doing all the washing and cleaning … It was just such a shock.
“At the time I didn’t know how to look after myself but as I went on I realised it was worthwhile. I knew I couldn’t go back to crime because I didn’t want the girls to be anywhere near anything like that.”
LaHoud tells his story in Once Upon A Time In Punchbowl, part of a series of documentaries being released by SBS. In it he explains how his upbringing led him to led a life of crime at a very young age and how the events of 9/11 change his life and that of his community forever.
The devoted father spent his teen years working his way up the ranks of the Telopea Street gangs. He could have died a dozen times. Instead, he ended up in prison.
He's now 24 with three daughters and hoping to own up to his mistakes and live a more meaningful life.
"I wanted to change my life but I also wanted people to understand how I got there," he told the Sunday Telegraph, "and hopefully show people that you can change. I wanted people to learn from my mistakes."
Being of Lebanese background is hard enough since 9/11. Couple that with alarming tattoos all over his face and body and he's finding it harder to move on than he'd like.
In the series, his mother cries when she remembers the first time she saw her son with tattoos marking his face.
LaHoud is currently running a freelance tattoo business but dreams of being an actor. "The dream is to take my girls to America and try my luck in acting over there. Hopefully people can recognise something in me and not judge me for how I look."
Images courtesy of SBS, Facebook and The Sunday Telegraph