• Earlier this year, a group of up to 30 balaclava-clad men gathered on sacred land at Gariwerd and chanted white power slogans while burning a cross. (Supplied: Parks Victoria)Source: Supplied: Parks Victoria
There's been calls for urgent action against far-right extremists after a group of white supremacists gathered at sacred Aboriginal land over the weekend.
Shahni Wellington

28 Jan 2021 - 5:18 PM  UPDATED 28 Jan 2021 - 5:20 PM

Over the weekend, 38 young white men as part of a far-right extremist organisation assembled at Gariwerd - Also known as the Grampians range - in regional Victoria.

The special Gunditjmara country, located about 230km north-west of Melbourne, is described as central to the Dreaming story, particularly to the Djab Wurrung and the Jardwadjali people as the traditional owners of the area.

Despite it's deep cultural connections, the land has made headlines as being a holiday destination for members of the 'National Socialist Network,' where they engaged in a range of racist, anti-Semitic and abhorrent behaviour. 

Images of the group posing in front of a burning cross, a symbol used by the Ku Klux Klan, and displaying Nazi salutes across Gariwerd were posted online.

Media reports have detailed witness accounts of the far-right group in the nearby town of Halls Gap, seeing Nazi tattoos, hearing "white power" chants and doing Sieg Heil salutes.

Djab Wurrung woman and Victorian Senator, Lidia Thorpe told NITV News she was disgusted to hear of a neo-Nazi group on her families' traditional lands.

"This is racist rot," she said.

"To think that our young people and old people have to deal with this in 2021 in an area that has world significance with our ancient eel traps on Gunditjmara country.

"It's just shows how much work we have to do, but it also shows who we need to target in this country to get rid of that racism."

Senator Thorpe has called on the government for urgent action against far-right extremist groups.

"They need to be called out, they need to be held accountable by the authorities, they are extremists, they are dangerous," she said.

"They don't like anyone who's not as white as they are, so we need to eradicate this disgusting racist, pandemic that we're experiencing in this country and continue to experience for the last 240 odd years."

The incident at Gariwerd comes after a man in a 'Proud Boys' shirt clashed with attendees at the Melbourne Invasion Day march on Tuesday.

'Within the law'

While frightened locals and tourists in Gariwerd area made reports to authorities, local Victoria Police maintained that no laws were broken. 

Extremism expert, Andre Oboler, told the ABC it wasn't a surprise to some.

"This group, which was in the Grampians, is a combination of two previous far right groups -  One of them, Antipodean Resistance, was in the Grampians just a few years ago, doing the exact same sort of stunt trying to draw, you know, dramatic media attention," Mr Oboler said.

Mr Oboler describes what he calls a global rise in trans-national white supremacy.

He fears that the prevalence of this ideology could lead to another Christchurch massacre, which saw 51 people killed at the hands of Australian Brenton Tarrant, in 2019.

"I hope we don't see it, but the chance that even just one person being radicalized, pushed to extremism, and something terrible happening - It's certainly there," Mr Oboler said.


"On the rise"

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews, condemned the actions of the group. 

He responded to the two recent incidents of far-right extremism, both occurring in Victoria, and described the anti-Semitism as "evil" and "wicked."

"In our state, there's no place for that sort of bigotry and hatred," Premier Andrews said.

"There's no place for violence - I would make the point as well, that many would argue and the international evidence is very clear, and indeed the local evidence, that their anti-Semitism is on the rise," he said.

A federal inquiry is currently under way into far-right extremism in Australia.

During the proceedings in December, the head of Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) revealed 40% of resources are being directed towards right-wing extremist groups.

The committee report is due to be handed down in April 2021.