A JEWISH academic from the Grampians area has expressed his revulsion at reports of a neo-Nazi gathering in the western Victorian region over the Australia Day weekend.
Professor Alan Wolff, a physician from Horsham, and the son of Holocaust survivors, told The AJN he was “appalled” when he saw coverage of the extremists who he said “menaced and intimidated law-abiding locals and tourists”.
“It is extremely sad that there are those who would discriminate against some of those in our society,” said Wolff. “I have lived in this area for 36 years and have found the local people here very friendly and welcoming … I have seen absolutely no evidence over that time to support the views of the group who demonstrated.”
During their gathering in the Grampians National Park, the far-right adherents, reportedly from the National Socialist Network (NSN), posted intimidating stickers on walking tracks.
According to The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, a hiker encountered the men wearing black T-shirts, some dressed in army fatigues. Some raised their arm in a Nazi salute amid cries of “white power!”
At nearby Halls Gap, residents saw some men with Nazi tattoos outside a café owned by an Indian family, with one exclaiming, “We are the Ku Klux Klan.”
Photos posted by the NSN online showed them performing Nazi salutes, burning a cross and brandishing flags emblazoned with their symbol.
The AJN, meanwhile, saw a message posted by the NSN on the chat app Gab last week which read, “We already live in a Jewish tyranny, it is better that they come out and make it clear to every White Australian what they are. They ought to showcase that there’s one rule for White Australians, and there’s another for the hordes of subhumans they’ve brought here.”
Among other racist slurs on the site, the group added, “The only way to avoid the system’s wrath is to willingly accept your slavery to the Jews and allow them to exterminate every last trace of White Australia.”
Police investigated the 20-30 men in the Grampians, with Western Region Division Four police superintendent Ian Milner stating, “My advice is they were a group of males from Melbourne.” But he added the group “weren’t breaking any laws”.
Addressing State Parliament on Tuesday, Caulfield MP and shadow police minister David Southwick called on the Victorian government to strengthen police powers.
“This is reportedly not the first instance in the Grampians area and follows other high-profile cases in Beulah, Kyabram and Wagga Wagga throughout 2020,” he said. “Once again, Victorians have seen a serious incident whereby the display of symbols of hate and the expression of white supremacist ideology has been entirely unimpeded by law and local police left powerless to act.”
Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim noted the attendees could conceivably be prosecuted under Victoria’s Unlawful Assemblies and Processions Act and possibly for committing other statutory and common-law offences.
“While these groups have organised similar ‘camping trips’ previously, these earlier events involved much smaller numbers of participants … It is especially concerning to note the apparent presence within these groups of licensed security guards and former army personnel who have had training in the use of weapons and various forms of combat, and are capable of maintaining group discipline,” he said.
Calling for a government crackdown, Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dvir Abramovich stated, “We must take these potential terrorists at their word and candidly characterise them as a clear and present danger.”
Dr Andre Oboler, CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute, described the Grampians gathering as “a merger of two previous neo-Nazi groups, since it came on the scene about three months ago”.
“The trip to the Grampians was a stunt, successfully used by one of their predecessor groups to get media attention back in 2017, and they’ve repeated the stunt and got the result they were after.”
Emphasising there was “no place for that sort of bigotry and hatred” in Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews told media that “antisemitism is on the rise … and it’s an evil thing, it’s a wicked thing”.