A CIVIL rights group is “deeply concerned” about extremist and racist groups attempting to establish themselves in the Grampians and Pyrenees regions.
Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich called on the government to develop an action plan to combat extremism following a Fairfax Media report of “white pride” recruitment in Beaufort.
“It is chilling that in today’s Australia there are people who remain determined to push their bigoted agenda and online activities to the real world,” Dr Abramovich said.
“We need to name the hate and to acknowledge that white supremacists are feeling empowered and emboldened, waging a forceful and well-coordinated national campaign of outreach.
“It is no surprise that there is an explosion of racist activity in Victoria, invading our schools, universities and public spaces, and justifiably causing many to feel fearful for their safety.”
Dr Abramovich said the Beaufort incident was particularly disturbing because it followed on the heels of neo-Nazi group Antipodean Resistance hosting a training camp in the Grampians.
A community newspaper last week published a classified advertisement seeking people interested in forming an “alliance” based on “white pride” and “right wing politics”.
Steve Stranks, who runs Southern Pride Boxing Club in Beaufort, placed the advertisement.
Mr Stranks has not responded to Fairfax Media’s request for comment but he sent a text message to the ABC stating he was "just a loner interested in the subject".
Mr Stranks is also a part-time Ararat Rural City Council employee.
The council’s chief executive Allan Bawden said Mr Shranks had been “counselled” about the issue and that the council embraced diversity and rejected racial discrimination.
In response to those comments, former state Greens candidate for Buninyong, Tony Goodfellow, sent a letter of complaint to Mr Bawden.
The story about the Beaufort “white pride” group provokes hundreds of comments on social media, with some users defending the right for someone to express pride in their cultural heritage.
Dr Abramovich said “white pride” groups were not about celebrating European heritage but denigrating and intimidating people of other races.
“This is a tactic to make their message more palatable to the average white person, and to bring their dangerous message into the mainstream by making it more respectable,” he said.
“But this re-branding cannot mask the fact that they traffic in fear, stereotypes and violence."