'There's More Than We Think': Infiltrating the Australian Neo-Nazi Movement

“The easiest way to infiltrate and get them to drop their guard was to have somebody who - in the undercover’s words - was an ‘old school racist."
Photo of men
STAN Australia

A group of 20 or so men stand in the depths of a cave at an undisclosed location in the Australian bush. They are clad in black, balaclavas pulled over their faces, a white symbol placed over their hearts. 

“Can you see out in the darkness? Crosses burning through the night. And a horsemen in a uniform. All white guarding the light?” they chant.

While posing on the bare rock they hold three flags. One is the familiar union jack of the Australian. The other two are blue, with a large symbol in the middle of each. Their shapes bare similarities to the Swastika of the flag of Nazi Germany, but these are symbols of The National Socialist Network (NSN): a group at the extreme far right. In other words, neo-Nazis.


The scene ends with a sieg heil.

It’s the opening to the documentary Amongst Us - neo-Nazi Australia, an hour-long dive into the ideologies of Australia’s most extreme, headed by Walkley Award-winning journalist Nick Mckenzie.

“I've been looking at different forms of extremism for years, and when I was a young journalist at 21, I was investigating Al Qaeda's presence in Australia,” McKenzie told VICE. 

“More recently, a couple of years after the Christchurch massacre, there was especially the questions of: are there neo-Nazis? What sort of threat do they pose? Are they terrorists?”

“I’ve been asking this for some time, but with more urgency and more evidence of them being around.”

Rather than conduct interviews with former members or security officials - Mckenzie says this mostly results in frustrating and unvarnished retellings of events - his team instead sought out a candidate for undercover infiltration. 

“So we had – not many – but a few people from the NSN and from other neo-Nazi groups reaching out to explain how the group was operating, how it was gathering weapons, where it was meeting, and we went in to covertly survey meetings to get a sense of who was in the zoo,” he said.

“But we were still on the outside.”

“By going inside, by going undercover, we really see for ourselves and show people what they look like – seeing and hearing up close.”

It took Mckenzie and his team months to find someone that was willing. Someone who was capable of going through the vetting process, both online and in person. Someone that could also prove themselves to the group and gain membership. But eventually, they did.


“We didn't want someone that was too full-throttle neo-Nazi ideology. It would be suspicious,” said Mckenzie. 

“We thought the easiest way to infiltrate and get them to drop their guard would be to have somebody who - in the undercover’s words - was an ‘old school racist’, who had some vicious horrible views which he was willing to espouse, and want to learn more.”

“So there was a real virtue having this person feign ignorance as to what neo-Nazism is. Obviously, one of the things I still feel crook about is listening to the undercover espouse racism and say some pretty rotten things - but it was a persona that worked.”

Under the guise of Davo, their undercover wore body cameras, infiltrated encrypted networks like Signal, and entered privileged spaces. Throughout their meetings and through shaky hidden footage, the group heads could be seen discussing recruitment and evading the police, while strengthening the resolve of their mission: to create an all-white Australia.

Described as “soft targets” by those in the group, the NSN specifically (but not exclusively) targets young, angry men, sometimes at universities, but often online. In suburban houses, they train in gyms, an older member acting as a step-in sergeant. Members were to be strong. They wanted to create an army.

“The perfect person is ex-military, knows how to use firearms and is young enough to be able to be conditioned. So someone in their early twenties that is a military drop out, or has a fascination for guns. Someone willing to actually give up their life,” said Mckenzie. 


“It's not to say that there's not some older recruits. There's also old white guys in the fringes of society, mostly unemployed, struggling to make a living, struggling to find community, who also joined the group to find brotherhood.” 

What’s clear is that the groups aim is to slowly radicalise its targets by handpicking those more inclined to become support cause, starting by scanning “weaker”, or less radical, internet forums. From there, further invitations to smaller and more exclusive groups results in a gathering of the most extreme.

According to Mckenzie, it’s a phenomenon that goes hand in hand with the globalisation of the internet.

“The internet acts as a force multiplier,” said Mckenzie.

“You'd have a neo-Nazi in Sydney, talking to a neo-Nazi in England talking to a neo-Nazis in Russia. We know that some Australians have previously gone to Ukraine from Melbourne or Sydney to join neo-Nazi battalions over there to improve their fighting skills.”

“Also, the pandemic has seen a huge upheaval in our society with people feeling lost or angry. And they're looking to cling to an ideology.”

One of the most surprising aspects Mckenzie found through the process, however, was just how ordinary these men were. Not all were skin-head, swastika-wearing supremacists on the edge of jail time. Most were your next door neighbour, an IT guy that worked for a federal agency, a security manager at a casino. In other words: guys (and they usually are guys) with normal jobs. 


In February, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) director-general, Mike Burgess, stated in his Annual Threat Assessment that “small cells” of right-wing extremists were regularly gathering and they that numbers were growing.

“There's more neo-Nazis out there then we think,” said Mckenzie, who references the report.

“Some of these neo-Nazis include women and children. They want to build this white society. And so some of the girlfriends and wives are actually along for the ride.”

Throughout the process of filming the documentary, Mckenzie said one of the most poignant moments that struck him was the glimpses into the humanity of the extremists. Or, as he calls them: “the banality of evil”. 

“There's this moment where we see a guy called Jacob interacting with the undercover, and for those few moments – I think Jacob is 23-years-old – you just see a young man who is lost and you just see a bit of humanity in him,” said Mckenzie. 

“You see that when he's interacting with his girlfriend he looks and sounds briefly normal but at the same time, Jacob is a full, whole of life neo-Nazi. He's going to either end up in jail or end up doing something terrible”.

“I thought that was really insightful, because it reminds us all that these guys are living next door, working with us, and they can put on a pretty respectable front.”


As an interesting end to his project, and after hearing that various members of the NSN were fraternising to action intimidation tactics on him (he now has security cameras positioned outside his house) Mckenzie says that some, quietly, have reached out. 

“They’ve said, ‘Can you please take my image offline? I’ve realised I’ve made a huge mistake. I’m not a neo-Nazi.’”

“I think that’s just the power of exposure - you hold these people accountable for their actions.”

The Stan Original Documentary Series Revealed: Amongst Us – Neo-Nazi Australia will premiere 27th March, only on Stan.

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