Peter Lyndon-James is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the West Australian Shalom Group (WASG Inc.), a men’s residential rehabilitation program. Shalom House seeks to restore the lives of men and families in our community.
Shalom House was born out of Peter’s vision to bring holistic recovery to the lives of men, providing a long-term safe community for those pursuing a life free from addiction. Peter established the first Shalom House in the Swan Valley in 2012. He drew inspiration from his own life experience, recovering from a broken family and associated trauma.
A ward of the State from age nine, Peter grew up in foster homes, children’s homes and institutions, spending most of his childhood being locked up or living on the streets, he felt unwanted, unloved and abandoned. At the age of nine he was given a choice – “live with your Dad”, who Peter felt abandoned him, or “go to Longmore children’s home”. Because of the hurt he experienced he decided to go to Longmore. This was Peter’s first taste of a life behind bars. He became a ward of the State.
Peter found that he fit in with other people who had similar lives. He surrounded himself with people who he felt understood him. The problem was that those people were doing the things that would eventually destroy him. This resulted in a life of crime, drug addiction and incarceration from which Peter thought he could never escape. By the age of 30, Peter had spent time in every jail in Western Australia. He became a career criminal and began to sell drugs full time; it wasn’t long before he was selling an average of $40,000 worth of methamphetamine a day, as well as a large amount of firearms and explosives. He was fully submerged in a life that he knew he didn’t want to be living.
Underneath it all, however, Peter just wanted to be “normal” like other people; he wanted to be a good father and a loving husband. In his words: “I just wanted to be a geek. My whole life all I ever wanted was to be normal. What I mean by normal is living with mum and dad, going to one school, going on family holidays and picnics, even playing sports and all the stuff that people take for granted.” Peter felt trapped in a life that he didn’t want to live and a pattern that he couldn’t break. He often says: “You can get the prisoner out of the prison, but you need to get the prison out of the prisoner”.
Through a personal life changing experience that could be best put down to a divine intervention, Peter made that hard choice to abandon his old life and start doing what he knew was right. In 2001, he was released from jail for the last time. He began working to right the wrongs of his past and changing his patterns of behaviour. After three years, Peter obtained his advanced Diploma in Theology, becoming a Chaplain at Acacia prison. He had broken free from that life and was on a mission to see others set free.
Peter dedicated himself to helping men who also felt trapped by the circumstances and choices of their lives; the type of men who required intensive attention and support to overcome life controlling issues and addictions that made their lives unmanageable for them and their families. Over time he found that a live-in restoration program was necessary to help them change their lives.
In 2012, Peter bought a house and began to teach, mentor and counsel the men, showing them how to break the chains that held them captive and making the right choices to restore their lives and the lives of their families. This system was working and began to grow in size. Peter began to recruit volunteers to help: doctors, chaplains, counselors, psychologists, tradesmen and people from the community with a heart to help people. Today there are over 30 paid staff members and an army of volunteers helping to bring restoration. There are now several houses and over 80 residents in the program all making the decision to change their lives.
The program continues to grow and Shalom House has been dubbed Australia’s strictest rehab.
Peter has now set out to educate the community, the families and the addict by teaching them the best way to bring about effective change and how to stop the cycle of destruction that drugs cause. The success of the program is evident in the changed lives of the men undergoing the program and their families.
Peter’s efforts were recognised on many occasions and he was named the finalist in the 2017 Australian of the Year awards.
Due to the large number of calls he receives from families in need and struggling with having their loved ones caught up in addiction, Peter wrote a book called “Tough Love: Tackling drug addiction and seeing change”, which was published in 2017. The book is a blueprint for those in need of help to deal with people with drug addiction and other life controlling issues. A copy of Peter’s book can be purchased through www.toughlovebook.com.au.