A friend in discussion recently made the following remark regarding the current torrent of accusations against the Croatian community in Australia perpetuated through a series of articles in the Melbourne AGE and Sydney Morning Herald……………
“The demand for Nazi’s is outstripping the supply.”
So why is it that suddenly the Australian Croatian community has come into focus again in such a major way?
On the 6th of December 2022, the Victorian State Government announced the adoption of legislation first passed in June 2022 regarding new laws criminalising the public display of Nazi symbols which would go into effect as of the 29th of December 2022.
Under point 3 of the released fact sheet, the following references were made as to exactly what this entails.
Point 3. What Nazi symbols are banned?
Quoting from the Victorian Legislation: The offence applies to public displays of the Hakenkreuz (more widely known as the Nazi symbol). Symbols that closely resemble the Hakenkreuz are also banned.
The Hakenkreuz is the most widely recognised symbol associated with Nazi ideology and is the most common symbol used to incite hatred towards members of the Victorian community.
The New South Wales Government soon followed suit. As stipulated in Schedule 1, Division 9, subsection (1) of the legislated bill, (1) A person who knowingly displays, by public act and without reasonable excuse, a Nazi symbol commits an offence.
The passing of the Victorian Legislation was met with complaint from the Jewish community, their argument was that the legislation was too narrow in only stipulating the, I quote, Hakenkreuz (more widely known as the Nazi symbol)and lobbying apparently took place to have the legislation broadened so as to be more specific as to what other symbology constituted Nazi related ideology.
The Victorian State Government of Dan Andrews, however, refrained from going further and hence the legislation was passed as is and as it stands to this day.
The New South Wales Government also neglected to broaden the potential pool of reference so as to define exactly what constitutes Nazi Symbology and hence we have legislation passed into law in both states that for lack of a better term are definitive on one symbol (In Victoria’s case) but open to interpretation in the case of New South Wales.
When a law is left to interpretation as to what act, physical item, or intent constituted charges being laid in the absence of any terms of reference, this becomes known as a legal precedent.
You will often hear the term for example “In the case of The State versus Smith” used when a matter brought before a court resulted in a determination having been made on the strength of an argument presented by either the prosecution or defense and resulting in either a prosecution or dismissal of the charges.
In the case of both the Victorian and New South Wales legislations, the potential remains that any charges brought before a court based on the legislation will end in arguments between both legal councils as to what can be constituted as a crime in light of the legislation. Unlike the Australian gun laws, which have very clearly defined terms of reference, these laws are found lacking.
The Australia Cup Incident.
On the 1st of October 2022, A historic Australia Cup final between Sydney United and Macarthur took place, and without going into the full details as to what occurred, nor dismantling many of the reports that were issued in the press which later proved unactual as to the real circumstances, a number of United supporters were identified as having displayed, vocalised or physically expressed WW2 Croatian AXIS related symbiology.
The media was quick to sensationalise the situation even further, associating the United supporters with Right Wing extremist Nazism. No less than 4 supporters were identified as a result among the crowd of thousands and shortly thereafter were visited by New South Wales Police who promptly issued charges based on the legislation passed by the New South Wales Government.
In the main, the 4 identified supporters were charged based on the display of a raised right hand interpreted as a Nazi salute, the display of Croatian defence Force insignia of the 1991-1995 Croatian War for Independence “HOS” insignia in the form of patches displayed on their clothing which were interpreted as being WW2 Insignia, and the chanting of “Za Dom Spremni” For Homeland Ready which was also an official response used by the Croatian Military during 1991-1995. The military use of “Za Dom Spremni” was indeed also used during WW2, however it predates its use during those years by some 200 years much like the German National Anthem does even though it was used before the establishment of the Third Reich and remains Germany’s national anthem to this day.
All 4 supporter have already appeared before a court a few weeks ago, interestingly the New South Wales judiciary have adjourned the hearing of their cases until March 2024. This may be a critical decision for a number of reasons.
There are a number topics within the Australian Croatian Diaspora which now exist and seem set to collide as a result of the current media campaign underway against the Croatian community here, a number which are longer term initiatives, and others which are manifesting as we speak, inevitably they all seem to be on a collision course and as a result could have dire consequences for us all.
The Judicial review to examine ‘Croatian six’ convictions.
30th of August 2022: The NSW Supreme Court ordered a judicial inquiry into the 1981 convictions of the so-called “Croatian Six” over an alleged conspiracy to bomb four businesses in Sydney and cut the city’s water supply, amid grave concerns the men were framed by a Yugoslav spy.
National Second Tier (Soccer) competition.
10th of May 2023 : Football Australia announced that 26 clubs successfully proceeded to the Request for Proposal (RFP) phase of the National Second Tier (NST) competition. Of the 26 clubs now in the running for between 12 and 16 positions, 3 are of Croatian background and include Sydney United 58 FC, Gold Coast Knights F.C, and Melbourne Knights FC
Considering the implications of the judicial review into the Croatian 6, the current media focus on Croatian hood could have a reductive effect on how Australian perceive any outcome, or for that matter the importance of the Croatian 6’s persecution and the role Australian Law enforcement and government agencies had.
With the possibility of 3 Croatian Australian clubs, two of which, Melbourne Knights and Sydney United 58 were considered powerhouses in the Australian Football world up until the retirement of the old National Soccer League, their admittance into a League whose teams could eventually challenge for places in the 1st tier may also be jeopardised.
A calamity of coincidences, or ?
Apart from what I have outlined already, there are a number of other initiatives I am aware of which are not public and are not my place to divulge, however, these initiatives could potentially be threatened as a result of the consequences of both the media’s assault on the Croatian Community in Australia and the pending enforcement of legislation through legal proceedings as I’ve already outlined.
Connecting the dots here isn’t that difficult, however of greater concern is how our diplomatic corps, and certain celebrity Australian Croats have or are interacting in these scenario’s.
The public remarks made by former Sydney United, Manchester United, Aston Villa, Chelsea and Australia National squad goalkeeper, Mark Bosnic along with Lucy Zelic, a former football presenter for SBS Television and sister of Ned Zelic were kneejerk reactions at best in front of the cameras. Rather than collecting their thoughts and issuing balanced and rational statements calling for an investigation into the full circumstances before passing judgement they were more than eager to make on the spot assessments in the media on the night.
Mark Bosnic : “The Nazi salutes and Nazi iconography, it’s got to be eradicated,” Bosnich said.
“This is something that led to great pain for a lot of people and needs to be totally eradicated. It’s important not to paint all Australian Croatians, and all football supporters, with the same brush. There was 16,000 people there at the weekend.
“Let’s be generous and say there were 100 people who were causing issues. That’s less than one per cent and it’s also up to the Croatian Australian supporters as well, not to be brought down by what’s occurred. Completely eradicate it, don’t want to see it in life, let alone in my sport.”
Lucy Zelic : “I’m a proud Croatian. I was raised by two immigrants who lost friends and family in the war – my Aunty Tereža was tragically killed after stepping on a rogue mine right near her home,”
“Our history is laced with much struggle, grief and loss but immense resilience.
“Growing up with an ethnic background, I knew what it was like to be on the receiving end of racism and was often told, ‘fuck of back to Croatia wog’. I was confused because Australia was my home and we were so, so proud of it.
“I was born in the 80s and was never raised to be a fascist, racist or antisemitic – it wasn’t an option. We knew what being treated differently because of your ethnicity and losing loved ones in senseless war felt like.
“What happened at last night’s Australia Cup Final was shocking and simply devastating, and I didn’t want to believe it. It was the first time I felt embarrassed by the actions of my fellow countrymen, and I wasn’t alone.”
With regard to the most recent articles published by The Melbourne AGE and Sydney Morning Herald, Croatian Ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, Betty Pavelic made the following statement to the media.
Betty Pavelic : “We firmly believe that it behoves us all to ensure that disinformation, glorification and the mainstreaming of criminal, totalitarian ideologies, their symbols and movements, do not take root in modern societies,”
Pavelich added it was important not to malign “law-abiding and respectful communities, based on the unacceptable views and behaviour of small groups of individuals”.
In equal measures?
What is more amazing is the fact in the case of Croatia’s diplomatic corps, led by Betty, when it comes to the question of fascist elements that openly display themselves in the Australian public eye, and flaunt their insignia which is connected to both the SS of WW2 and atrocities committed during the homeland war there is nothing but silence.
The Australian Newspaper, a publication that is regarded as Australia’s premier daily news source earlier this year followed up on a topic, they have been writing about for the past number of years to do with the Serbian Chetniks who are allowed to participate in Australia’s military veterans’ remembrance parade held each year known as “ANZAC” day.
A reporter for the Australian officially wrote to Betty asking her if the Croatian Government still held the view, they published regarding the Chetnik’s in light of the rehabilitation of Draza Mihaljevic and the Chetniks by the Serbian Courts and Government in 2015.
All Betty needed to do was reply advising what the Croatian Governments stance was, and which therefore would be the Australian Croatian Diplomatic Corps position also.
No reply was ever sent and as a result “The Australian” never ran the story.
We need to ask exactly whose interests the Australian Diplomatic Corps supports as based on the recent remarks made, and the silence maintained in these examples, their purpose and alliances are questionable and should be a worry to all Diasporan Croatians in Australia.
Building the Anti Croatian Case
Over 3 consecutive days, Australian printed media have been releasing images sourced from personal user profiles on social media sites such as Face Book, Twitter etc, individuals are now being named and labelled as being purveyors of fascist ideologies and symbology’s an threaten their individual livelihood’s. Additionally, individuals who have posted videos of themselves participating in what is now being promoted as fascist like behaviour could potentially also receive a visit from law enforcement authorities. The worrying fact is that there is a consolidated effort, utilising the media, to build a case against the Croatian community.
Apart from the consequences of this on individual Croatians, the likelihood is that our legitimate symbiology’s be they in our community centres, our sporting clubs, places of worship, or even belonging to our personal selves be it physically or digitally online could all be at risk.
The questions we need to ask ourselves are……………….
Who is actually behind this, or what are the partnerships that are conspiring against us?
What are their motivations?
And who will speak on behalf of the Croatian community of Australia with a rational voice and viewpoint as we meet these challenges head on?