An image of the group from the Antipodean Resistance website. Picture: Antipodean Resistance/Supplied
An image of the group from the Antipodean Resistance website. Picture: Antipodean Resistance/Supplied

Why young people in Toowoomba are attracted to Nazi groups

MORE needs to be done to stop young people becoming radicalised and joining far-right extremist groups, a University of Southern Queensland academic has said.

The comment comes after Neo-Nazi group Antipodean Resistance stuck Nazi symbols around Toowoomba this week.

Dr Jess Carniel, who lectures in western ideas, ethics and human rights, said people who were drawn to these far-right fascist groups had anxieties about where society was heading and where exactly they fitted into it.

"We're seeing at the moment, not just in Australia but globally, a lot of anxiety about where different people feel they fit in society," Dr Carniel said.

"It can be threatening for some people who feel the group they belong to in society, that their position is being threatened or challenged in some way.

"(Antipodean Resistance) are focused very much on issues around race and a 'threat to white-ness'."

The Antipodean Resistance group placed this swastika sticker in Queens Park.
The Antipodean Resistance group placed this swastika sticker in Queens Park. Contributed

Dr Carniel said by that she meant people that joined these groups felt diversity was a bad thing.

"They are also active in terms of gender issues and last year (during the marriage equality postal survey) they promoted misinformation linking homosexuality and pedophilia," she said.

She said there was a historical precedence for the emergence of these far-right groups.

"If you look back historically to Germany prior to World War Two, it was economic anxiety and the feeling they'd been hard done by the Treaty of Versailles," she said.

"Today you see a lot of people who feel they are competing for work with people who are seen as 'other', whether that's a racial difference or a gender difference, they feel they are overlooked for an opportunity.

"That can make people feel quite disenfranchised.

"If people start feeling disenfranchised economically there are other effects; they can seek someone to blame for the reason why they feel excluded. That's what I'd put it down to."

The far-right fascist group, believed to be made up of people in their late teens and 20s, recently placed a number of stickers throughout Toowoomba's CBD. They have targeted Toowoomba several times in the past and have held 'training camps' in rural areas near Toowoomba.

The group is considered one of Australia's most extreme far-right groups and has claimed it is inspired by the United Kingdom's National Action, which was labelled as a terrorist organisation in 2016.

They also link themselves to the Nordic Resistance Movement which last year bombed a bookstore and asylum centres in Norway.

Previous media reports suggest spy agency ASIO closely monitors the work of the group.

"Members of these groups are diverse and have different agendas, including extreme right-wing and extreme left-wing ideologies," ASIO said in a recent parliamentary review into the expenditure of security agencies.

The Antipodean Resistance group placed this swastika sticker near Toowoomba's TAFE campus.
The Antipodean Resistance group placed this swastika sticker near Toowoomba's TAFE campus. Contributed

"The interesting thing about this group is they are targeted at young people and liken themselves to Hitler Youth," Dr Carniel said.

She said it was saddening to hear reports of the group targeting Toowoomba again.

"It makes me both sad and angry to see hate speech spread around a  place like Toowoomba," she said.

"Particularly as it is a site of relocation for different refugee and migrant groups.

"It can make people feel less connected to where they are settling and less welcomed."

She said it was particularly concerning if the group was appealing to youth in Toowoomba.

 "If young people are feeling this marginalisation we need to be looking at the root causes of that and making sure young people in Toowoomba are connected to diversity and feel part of the community."

Dr Carniel said a big part of making sure these groups didn't have a greater influence on public discourse was to have a more open conversation about the things the group stood for.

"We need to be talking openly about issues around race, culture and gender within schools," she said.

"By that I mean nuanced discussion where we let people have 'so-called bad ideas' and work through them; it does need to start young."

She said along with conversations in schools there needed to be more studies into social issues to stop the radicalisation of youth into far-right extremism groups.

"By looking at the nitty-gritty of social issues, such as youth unemployment, racially motivated violence, looking at statistics surrounding that and doing more research into it so we can figure out where young people are and why they're feeling that way, we can develop community targeted programs to make them feel more integrated," she said.

"Work needs to come at a community level and find ways to connect to young people."

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Dr Carniel said while some people had concerns around the ideas of freedom of speech, overt hate speech was quite troubling.

"What we need to be concerned about with a group like this is why they're appealing to people and what we can do to mitigate that appeal, try to get people to feel that anxiety less and promote greater cross-cultural and gender understanding," she said.

"We need to provide people with other solutions than those put forward by groups like this."

"Given the context of this week, with Fraser Anning making that comment on the final solution, now is a good time to start talking about this and perhaps not just educate people about the history behind these ideas, but start thinking a bit critically about where we are at now to not let these ideas take root again," she said.