A decision by a group of residents in Western Australia’s Goldfields to hold a “victory day” party — complete with a Nazi flag and symbols — on Australia Day has been condemned as racist and ignorant by police.
Held at a residence in South Kalgoorlie last week, attendees posed with a homemade Nazi flag, while there was also a map of Australia featuring a swastika cut into the lawn.
Images of the party, including messages such as “stay white Australia” and “happy victory day” were posted to Facebook last week and circulated widely.
Goldfields-Esperance District Police Acting Superintendent Tony Colfer slammed the images.
“We don’t tolerate this kind of behaviour in our community,” Superintendent Colfer said.
“These people need to have a serious think about what they’re doing, because material like this hurts everybody.”
He said police were investigating the matter further.
When the ABC contacted Facebook about the post, a spokeswoman for the social media giant said material inciting racial hatred or vilification would be removed, while posts sharing the imagery to condemn it would be allowed to remain.
But she was not able to reveal whether Facebook had deleted the images, or whether the individuals had done it themselves.
Racism flares amid increasing tension, youth crime
The racist imagery comes at a complex time for Kalgoorlie. Community frustration with crime and racism on social media both playing a role in the lead-up to the unlawful killing of 14-year-old Elijah Doughty in August 2016, and the riot that followed a day later.
While local leaders had expressed confidence progress had been made, they have struggled in recent months to deal with a significant crime wave.
Detectives have laid 330 charges in connection with 115 burglaries in the city since mid-2017.
After 60 reported burglaries in the first week of January, a targeted police operation has seen a further 45 people charged in connection with 70 break-ins in less than a month.
Juvenile offenders make up a significant proportion of those charged — the youngest is just 13 years old, the eldest only 22.
Police, Aboriginal leaders and community services are working to counsel a separate group of nine to 11-year-old children caught breaking into cars.
Those arrested include members of a core group of juvenile criminals with prolific records for offences in the Kalgoorlie area.
“There’s no subtlety to some of these offences … we’re talking a brick through a large window to gain entry to a house,” Kalgoorlie Detective Sergeant Paul Lines said.
“Detention, at the moment, does not seem to be a deterrent for them; although once they’re inside, they’re not committing offences, so it’s good for the community.
“But that’s something that’s out of my control.”
Justice system at the heart of the problems
Two separate summits were meant to map out a response to the issues driving Kalgoorlie’s long-term issues; including youth boredom, a lack of parental supervision, and an ongoing divide in the community.
But apart from the creation of a dedicated team to work with the families of at-risk youth and a review of service delivery, almost none of the summits’ agreed objectives have been met.
In the meantime, the desire to rehabilitate young offenders is running squarely into residents’ need to feel safe in their homes, while the perceived leniency of the three-year sentence handed to the 56-year-old man responsible for Elijah Doughty’s death sparked nationwide protests.
City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder chief executive John Walker conceded progress had stalled, with the City also dealing with alcohol-fuelled and threatening behaviour from itinerant travellers from outlying Aboriginal communities.
He said the justice system was at the centre of the ongoing problems in the community.
“It’s hard to say otherwise, because we seem to have a system where people can do what they like,” Mr Walker said.
“In terms of the stuff that’s upsetting people; the crime on the streets, the crime at home … it hasn’t improved.”
Council stepping into law enforcement
Hopes of further investment in a youth centre, and other programs for at-risk youth, remain dependent on a report from last October’s youth summit.
The Kalgoorlie-Boulder youth survey aimed to allow the city’s younger residents to map out the services they wanted governments to provide.
Those results were due to be handed to the Federal Government on December 31, but summit organisers requested a six-week extension.
A spokesman for Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said the report was a “vital” part of the summit process, but stopped short of guaranteeing funding for any new ideas without equal support from the State Government and City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
With that process stalled, the council has turned to stop-gap solutions to stem the immediate crime problem.
While requests for extra police officers have gone un-met, the city will hire two new rangers and grant them the power to hit offenders with $400 fines.
“Urinating and defecating in the streets, public indecency, harassing people and begging for money need to have stronger laws behind them,” Mr Walker said.
“We need help in the streets.”