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A periodic publication of the
B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission

ADC SPECIAL REPORT

No. 4, January 2002
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THE KU KLUX KLAN IN AUSTRALIA


Given recent global events, countering terrorism is at the forefront of
government agendas worldwide. Whilst the September 2001 attacks on the
United States were masterminded by foreign terrorists, the last century has
also seen acts of terrorism by home-grown groups, including the Ku Klux Klan
(KKK). As one of the first domestic terrorist groups in the US, the KKK has
perpetrated a plethora of violent acts against blacks and other groups
perceived as threats to white Protestant supremacy in American life.

In June 1999 revelations surfaced about the arrival of the KKK in Australia.
At the time there was widespread fear that this signalled a broadening in
the strength and scope of Australia's violent white supremacist fringe. More
than two years on, it is possible to assess the influence the group has had
on Australian extremist activity and the threats it may pose to society
today. It is this question that this ADC Special Report seeks to address.

***  What is the Ku Klux Klan?

Created in 1865 by Confederate veterans of the US Civil War, the KKK emerged
as a response by citizens of the southern US states to the post-war federal
Reconstructionist policy aimed at desegregating life in the south. Thousands
enjoyed the anonymity of putting on a sheet and mask and riding into the
night to commit assaults, mutilations, lynchings, floggings, shootings,
robbery, rape, arson and murder. The KKK initially sought to attack blacks,
though it later focused on all perceived threats to white Protestant
American life, including Jews and Catholics.

Almost a century after it was established, the KKK had become the largest
racist group in the US. Recent years have however seen a decline in KKK
influence, largely due to factional infighting, litigation brought by civil
rights bodies, the implication of klansmen in violent crimes, and the
introduction of hate crime legislation. Supplanted by a growth in militia
groups, the KKK in the US is today in the weakest state it has been since
World War Two, numbering no more than 3000 followers in total.

***  The KKK in Australia: the early years

Since the Second World War, Australia has seen sporadic outbreaks of
isolated KKK activity. Over the decades, various individuals have claimed to
be in close contact with or members of a US klan. For example, in the 1950s,
NSW-based neo-Nazi Graeme Theo Royce corresponded with several overseas KKK
leaders. Other individuals claimed to be the official Australian
representative of a US klan. Of note is David Callahan of Katherine,
Northern Territory, who in 1978 claimed to be the Australian National
Director and Coordinator of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (US). Meetings
of the group were purportedly held throughout the Territory and were said to
have attracted large crowds. In the 1980s, Kevin Bourke of Murumbeena,
Victoria, claimed that he was the Australian Kleagel (recruiter-organiser)
of the Invisible Empire of the Ku Klux Klan (US), with 170 followers. A
staunch Catholic, he would attend Sunday mass at his local church, choosing
to ignore traditional KKK anti-Catholic sentiment in favour of animosity
towards Aborigines, Jews, Japanese, Asians and other "non-pure" races.

The violence traditionally associated with the KKK in the US was also
replicated in Australia. In 1978, NT policeman David Jennings, associated
with Callahan's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, chained together nine
Aboriginal teenagers to form a "work gang" and injured three Aborigines when
firing a shotgun to destroy bottles of wine.

In the 1980s, sporadic attacks were committed on Aborigines in several
states. In Mareeba, Queensland, an elderly Aboriginal man was abducted by
two persons wearing KKK garb. In January 1988 there were reports of three
separate incidents in Rockhampton, Queensland, in which men wearing KKK
hoods and gowns threatened an Aboriginal woman and a group of Aboriginal
children. In May 1988, a group claiming to be a local chapter of the KKK in
Port Hedland, WA, sent hangman’s nooses to a parliamentarian, a local police
station and the office of a Western Australian newspaper, claiming that the
device was for use on "native prisoners". Numerous letters were sent by
purported KKK officials, primarily to Aborigines. One such letter, sent to
Aboriginal elders in Queensland, stated: "Dear... little niggers,
Aboriginals [sic] are the lowest form of human life on earth... The only bad
mistake the British made when they civilised Australia was not to fully
exterminate all of you Rock Apes! We will get you f...ing niggers one way or
the other!"

***  The growth of the KKK in Australia

In June 1999 the media offered what they described as the "first
confirmation of the presence of the feared white supremacist group in
Australia". Sydney-based Peter Coleman was cited as the principal KKK
activist in Australia, with several US klans quoted as saying that they had
a significant number of members here.

The media reports reflected the emergence in the late 1990s of a more
organised and active KKK presence. However, they also suggested that the KKK
had come out of the blue to form a large and powerful new force on
Australia's far-right fringe. In reality, this KKK activity was merely the
latest in a long line of incarnations by Australia's violent white
supremacist leadership. Lacking a strong adherence to the ideology of any
particular global white supremacist movement, most Australian supremacists
have tended to move between differing extremist organisations according to
which ever is perceived to be the most popular or appealing at the time.

By the late 1990s, Australia's neo-Nazi groups were on a spiralling decline.
Australia's foremost neo-Nazi group, the Melbourne-based National Action,
had begun to experience severe problems, including financial difficulties, a
failure to attract members, and serious infighting. The West
Australian-based Australian Nationalists Movement had all but disappeared
following the jailing of its leadership for the 1989 firebombing of a
Chinese restaurant in Perth in an attempt to drive Asians out of Australia.
Other groups, such as the NSW-based National Socialist Defence of Aryan
People, found themselves unable to attract any new members.

As a result, Australian supremacists arguably began looking for an alternate
means to promote their views. Key neo-Nazi figures chose to eschew their
(public) support for the ideas promulgated by Adolf Hitler, opting instead
for what they may have believed to be a more palatable form of supremacy for
white Australians. While white Australians might be persuaded to support
tenets of supremacist ideology, it is likely that few would support the
ideals of a movement against which Australia had fought so hard, and
sacrificed so much, during the Second World War. By the 1990s, Australian
supremacists may have realised that to attract a broader membership they
would have to move away from Nazi symbols, particularly swastikas, whilst
maintaining the slogans, the imagery, and the trappings of white supremacy.

The KKK, as a uniquely US invention, offered an alternative to the
traditional European-style of white supremacy which had existed in Australia
since World War Two. The KKK had a century-old history of activity in the
US, including acts of intimidation against minorities, particularly blacks,
which could be easily adapted for an Australian audience. In addition, there
were parallels between the political and social disillusionment felt by
those in the US south which gave rise to the Klan, and the economic hardship
and social experience of those in rural and regional Australia. Supremacists
may have hoped that Australians would be particularly attracted by the KKK's
"frontier justice" approach to dealing with blacks, the group's white garb
(which offered a degree of anonymity), and the public burnings of crosses
(which are meant to reflect Christian pride). In addition, the interaction
between the KKK in the US and neo-Nazis, exemplified by prominent Klan
figure David Duke, who has been associated with a range of neo-Nazi groups,
may have served as a guide for Australian neo-Nazis looking to the KKK
approach.

***  Klans and membership

Despite its more active and organised presence in Australia since the late
1990s, it would be a mistake to think that the KKK in Australia is a
cohesive, monolithic body. In reality, the various klans and klaverns
(branches) in Australia, as well as those individuals who claim to be KKK
followers, act virtually independently of each other. None host any
cooperative events or coordinated activities.

Two klans operate in Australia: the Imperial Klans of America – Realm of
Australia (IKA) and the Australian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (K-KKK). The
IKA is the largest klan in the US, with 19 chapters in 13 states. Its
Australian arm is headed by Sydney-based Peter Coleman, who has claimed that
it has klaverns in several states, including Queensland, New South Wales,
Victoria and South Australia. In NSW, the IKA purports to have klaverns in
Wentworthville, Coonabarabran, Casino and Gosford, with a total of 30
members in the Sydney area. In 1999 the IKA claimed that its members had
infiltrated the ranks of the Australian Defence Force.

The K-KKK claims to have 200 members throughout northern rural NSW, as well
as branches in Queensland and Melbourne. This may be a wild exaggeration;
the group seems only ever to have had one (barely) operative branch in
Sydney, with only a handful of members. The K-KKK is largely inactive, and
its founder and leader, David Palmer, is involved with other white
supremacist groups.

Other American klans claim followers in Australia. For example, the North
Georgia White Knights claims 33 Australian members, including 17 in
Tasmania.

It is difficult to estimate the total number of KKK members in Australia,
for many are members of US klans, including the IKA, having paid their
membership dues over the Internet. Coupled with this are the seemingly large
numbers of individuals who have engaged in activities in the name of the
KKK, but are not believed to be associated with either the K-KKK or the IKA.
The B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission believes that there are probably
no more than several dozen individuals formally associated with a KKK group.

***  Activities

Thus far there has been no evidence of either the IKA or K-KKK sponsoring
acts of physical violence. Intimidating and offensive acts, yes, but there
is no proof of organisation-sanctioned violence. The violence which has
occurred under a KKK banner has been perpetrated largely by individuals who
are either racists or criminals who use the "KKK" name to divert the
attention of the police, or to appear more threatening. One of the more
publicised acts included the January 2000 murder of a schoolteacher in
Brewarrina, NSW, where the letters "KKK" were scrawled on his body. Police
speculated that the initials were probably intended to put them on the wrong
track. Another incident in April 2001 saw Casino resident Colin Houston
dress up in a KKK gown and hood, brandish a black baton, and patrol the
street outside a block of flats which had Aboriginal residents. Houston is
the third most senior operative for the IKA, though his actions do not
necessarily represent the approach of the IKA as a whole.

Other incidents have been no less alarming, but are also unlikely to be the
work of an organised KKK group. These have occurred particularly in and
around Casino, Lismore, Coonabrabran and Dubbo in northern NSW and in
south-eastern Queensland, and have included death threats and property
damage against a Jewish family in a NSW town, threatening letters sent to
Aborigines, the burning of wooden crosses by hooded individuals in town
parks at night, graffiti, and damage to both private and public property. A
large number of threatening letters sent to Aborigines in NSW have contained
a return address for the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Kentucky, USA, which
was most probably downloaded from the Internet.

The organised klan activity has been comparatively tame. It has consisted of
the IKA holding meetings for its members and the hosting of public rallies,
purportedly to combat crime in rural areas. The K-KKK appears to do very
little, although it has held a few burnings of crosses (usually staged for
the benefit of the TV cameras).

***  The leadership today

--> Peter John Coleman

A resident of Merrylands, Sydney, Coleman owns a mail-order business selling
military regalia. He has been the deputy leader of the West Australian-based
neo-Nazi group, the Australian Nationalists Movement, and the deputy leader
of David Palmer’s NSDAP group (see below). In 1999 Coleman was appointed
Grand Titan (provincial head) or Exalted Cyclops (chapter president) of the
Imperial Klans of America – Realm of Australia. Coleman has suggested that
he recruited for his group at branch meetings of the One Nation Party, of
which he was a member. He was later expelled by One Nation once his
association with the klan became known.

In the September-October 1999 issue of the newsletter of the Imperial Klans
of America, Imperial Wizard (national leader) Ron Edwards confirmed
Coleman's appointment as the head of the group’s Australian arm. Edwards
stated that Coleman was in charge of three klaverns in Australia with a
growing membership. Coleman has claimed that his Sydney klavern has 30
members.

--> Jock Cooper

Based on a property near Coonabarabran, NSW, Jock Cooper is a knife and gun
dealer who has a loose association with Peter Coleman's IKA. However, unlike
Coleman, Cooper has sought to promote his klavern as merely a vigilante
group dedicated to combatting crime in the district. He has organised public
meetings in the town, ostensibly to look at ways of dealing with street
crime and drug use amongst youth. The advertising for one such meeting urged
the "white majority" to send a message to Canberra that people were "fed up
with insane policies relating to reconciliation, multiculturalism and
homosexuality". His group is believed to have several former bikies as
members, but is not believed to sponsor violence.

Cooper has been one of the more public klan figures in northern NSW, though
his activities have been more reflective of a populist form of racism,
rather than any hard-core racist ideology, with blame apportioned to
minorities, especially Aborigines, for all the crimes and drug-related
activities in the region. The racist ideological underpinnings of Cooper's
group are thus rather loose and Cooper has sought to distance himself from
David Palmer's very public proclamations in support of overt white supremacy
(see below). It is also interesting to note that a member of Cooper's group
is believed to be of Asian background. Cooper has proudly stated: "Yes I'm a
racist, I'm the first to admit it, otherwise I wouldn't be in the KKK, but
this is for the kids".

--> David Palmer

David Palmer is a Sydney-based Nazi memorabilia salesman and long-time
neo-Nazi enthusiast who was involved with the neo-Nazi group, National
Action, but quit after becoming disillusioned with its leadership. On 20
April 1990 – the anniversary of Hitler's birthday – Palmer established his
own neo-Nazi group, National Security Defending Australian People,
alternatively known as Australian National Socialist Defence of Aryan People
(NSDAP). Palmer acts as its Supreme Commander and F?hrer and is believed to
have worn a Nazi stormtrooper uniform to the group's meetings. Fellow
prominent members of the group have included Peter Coleman (see above),
longtime neo-Nazi Ross ("The Skull") May, and military dealer Robert Keith
Leys. The NSDAP has maintained a small following, but has sought to attract
members through its "AIDS-free" breeding facility for women desiring
impregnation by young Aryan males.

In June 1999, in the wake of media coverage surrounding Peter Coleman's KKK
activities, Palmer claimed to have founded his own klan, the Australian
Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. As the self-proclaimed Imperial Klan Wizard,
Palmer has welcomed the media limelight, proudly dressing up in the robes
and hood and burning crosses for the benefit of the TV cameras. Palmer
maintains that Klan members have infiltrated all the major political
parties, though this seems unlikely given that the membership base is
believed to be drawn from elderly white Anglo-Saxon males and transient
homeless youth.

As someone who revels in the media spotlight and likes to promote himself as
being at the forefront of white supremacist activity in Australia, Palmer
continues to invent new groups (and proclaims himself their leader) as a way
of maintaining this image. He continues to claim allegiance to the KKK,
while concurrently remaining as F?hrer of the NSDAP and of his latest group,
Australian Strikeforce Guards for Aryan Resistance and Defence (ASGARD).
Palmer does not deny that his KKK allegiance is part of a broader white
supremacist philosophy: "Peter (Coleman’s klan) is the Christian one... mine
is the anything group. I'll take anyone as long as they're white".

***  Conclusion

Whilst the KKK in Australia has managed to attract only a handful of
followers, it has presented a threat to Australia's social harmony,
particularly in rural and regional areas where there is a precarious
relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The very
existence of a group modelled on the infamous US KKK is enough to instil
fear among minorities, especially Aborigines, and to stir up racial tensions
in small communities.

The leadership of Australia's neo-Nazi movement, who virtually overnight
became KKK initiates, may not have succeeded in their efforts in attracting
more people to their evangelical white supremacist cause. However, their
invocation of the classic US-style of violent white supremacy – as opposed
to the more traditional European neo-Nazi type – did create a new direction
for Australia's racist fringe.

This new direction has shown the power of new technologies, particularly the
Internet, in facilitating a globalisation of hate. The Internet has exposed
local racists to the ever-growing number of overseas racist ideologies and
activities, and to a network of enthusiasts abroad, to which until recently
many had little access. IKA leader David Coleman has stated, "We did well
without it (the Internet), but it makes it a lot easier for kids at home to
get involved".

The KKK is by no means the sole expression of the far-right fringe in
Australia. The less overt and more deceptive groups, who are often able to
articulate their conspiracies with some attempt at pseudo-intellectual
depth, have played a significant part in the feeding of far-right elements
within the political and social mainstream. All manifestations of racial
hatred must be opposed if Australia is to remain a bastion of cultural and
racial tolerance and diversity.


Copyright (c) January 2002, B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission Inc., a
national Australian organisation dedicated to researching and combatting all
forms of racism. Tel. (03) 9527 1228, fax (03) 9525 9127, email
antidef@optusnet.com.au.

Researched and written by Mr Benseon Apple, Director of Research & Public
Affairs, based on information from various Australian law enforcement
agencies, materials disseminated in the name of the KKK, and media reports.
The author acknowledges the assistance provided by the Anti-Defamation
League (US), www.adl.org, and the Southern Poverty Law Center,
www.splcenter.org.

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The B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission Inc. (ADC)
is a national organisation dedicated to researching
and combatting all forms of racism.

PO Box 450, Caulfield South, Vic 3162, Australia.
Phone 61-3-9527-1228 Fax 61-3-9525-9127
Email antidef@optusnet.com.au

Chairman: Mr Jeffrey Loewenstein
Executive Director: Mr Alan Gold
Director of Public Affairs: Mr Benseon Apple

ADC Board of Advisers:
The Rt Hon Sir Zelman Cowen AK GCMG GCVO QC DCL (pres.),
Sir Walter Campbell AC,
The Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser AC CH,
The Hon RJL Hawke AC,
Professor Lowitja O'Donoghue AC CBE,
The Rt Hon Sir Ninian Stephen KG AK GCMG GCVO KBE,
The Hon Neville Wran AC QC
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