FILE CLOSED – The Croatian 6

For all intensive purposes it was “FILE CLOSED” on the story, or rather fantasy surrounding the Croatian 6, we all know the story, the kangaroo court case, the ramifications it had on Australian Croats who by default were viewed as part of a terrorist movement as a result of the allegations, and the eventual flight of one of the initially accused, Vico Virkez, back to the open arms of his keepers in then Croatian occupied Yugoslavia.

By the end of the 1970’s and the start of a new decade, we as Australians first and foremost believed in a nation that had abandoned the suckling of its imperial British parents breast, its milk fowled after Australia had literally been abandoned with the fall of Singapore in WW2, we believed in a nation that had come of age, that had proved itself to be truly a nation of and on its own in the middle of nowhere, and which had created its own sense of national pride and determination.

Nevertheless, one trait it had proven not to have had discarded was the ability of its politicians and security services to deal out a diplomacy as equally treacherous as that of the British who had only 35 years earlier decided the fate of an estimated 1,000,000 plus Croats at Bleiberg and into the following years. They had simply “Closed the file” on the matter and moved on to afternoon tea as any civilized culture would at the cost of another.

These were the Fraser years, a Government that had received the full backing and support of the then Australian Croatian community, for us it was almost a return to the Menzies era after the dark days of the Mob led by Whitlam, Cairns and Murphy who raided ASIO in Melbourne, confiscated secret documents and proceeded to collude with the Yugoslav secret services sharing a wealth of information, or rather disinformation. Jim Cairns openly stated that any person in Australia referring to themselves as a Croat should be considered part of a terrorist organization and should, in his opinion under “Parliamentary privilege” be extradited to Yugoslavia, each man, woman, and child.

Then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser

Fraser brought a new hope for Australian Croats that the dark days of Whitlam’s reign were closed and we could breathe again, Fraser Government Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Ian MacPhee was even helped in his campaign for election by prominent Croats in Sydney, and went on to open the Croatian Community Center better know as “The Dom” in Melbourne only months before the Croatian 6 case was concocted.

Yesterday after a very long wait, documents were declassified and made public regarding the opera being played out behind closed doors. We should thank Sasha Uzunov who applied for their release and was supported financially by a number of us in stealth financially to do so. And the wait for these documents were not well worth the wait but earth shattering when 242 pages of ministerial discussions, debate, ducking and weaving and overall contempt for justice came to light.

(Not in order of appearance) The Croatian 6 Max Bebic, Vic Brajkovic, Tony Zvirotic, Joe Kokotovic, Ilija Kokotovic and Mile Nekic.

In essence very early on in the case against the Croatian 6, questions had already started to float into Federal Government circles as to the legitimacy of the evidence and serious concerns raised regarding a  member of the apprehended group who started to frame the background upon which the prosecution was to prosecute, his role in this Shakespearean tragedy which was unfolding was described as “Virkez is the lynch pin of the prosecution case and should there be a conviction in the matter any appeal or application for retrial would without doubt focus on his role in the affair” (Page 21, Paragraph 2 of the released file dated February 1981)

But there was reason for concern even days earlier that same month, (Page 13 of the released file) when minutes on a document from the Department of Prime minister and Cabinet dated the 10th of February 1981 stated the following with regard to Crown Prosecutor “Mr. Shillington’s” comment to the jury that “There is not a skerrick of evidence that Virkez is a foreign agent” to which a hand written note from Mr. Enfield stated “I do not accept this conclusion”

Page 13 of the 242 pages of released documents.

Indeed Mr. Enfield may have known something that the others did not, a year earlier in March 1979, ASIO informed NSW Police that Virkez was a (Yugoslav Secret Service) Spy as is also revealed in the stash of documents.

At the top of the same page an additional handwritten note by Mr. Enfield to Mr. St John requested on the 16th of February that

“Mr. St John

Please discuss the issue with Mr. Neaves. The PM has not been involved so far & is not to be involved”

 At some later date on the bottom of the document Mr. St John responded with a handwritten note advising.

“I discussed the matter with Mr. Neaves and Mr. Menzies at the A-AG Dept (Australian Attorney Generals Department). Mr. Menzies will speak to the A.F.P (Australian Federal Police) today to check whether the NSW Police had in fact been adequately informed about Virkez’s ????? with the ?????”

Only drops of commentary regarding dialogue in a sea of documents, nevertheless the cast of this epic production only grew in number and stature as matters progressed or were steered in a direction unbeknown to the general public.

Should this interest you the reader? If your answer is no then obviously you never suffered the ridicule associated with proclaiming yourself a Croat in this country in those dark decades, perhaps you didn’t even realize you were one until 10 years later when it became more appropriate to do so due to a positive change in circumstances for our people and culture, “A new democracy, A new me” so to say.

However, 6 men who undoubtedly were guilty of the convictions they held, but innocent of the allegations they were judged and sentenced for” sat incarcerated at Her Majesty’s Pleasure while infiltrators such as Virkez, and shadow players should we not forget NSW Police Detective Roger Rogerson went on their merry way.

Here is the link to the released documents View digital copy ( which are now in the hands of the legal team renewing the fight for justice for the Croatian 6, if you really want to teach your children what it means to be a proud Australian Croat, this is a part of their heritage in this country, a story that should be remembered and turned into what it really is, a tall tail of treachery and deceit.

The File will never close.

2 thoughts on “FILE CLOSED – The Croatian 6”

  1. Thank you John Ovcaric and GHD, for the commentary, the document access and review.
    Looking forward to what may come next and of course with your insight at that time.

Comments are closed.