I drive the highways and byways of the NT a lot – mostly for work. In the last few months I’ve driven long stretches up and down the Stuart Highway that runs three thousand and more often very lonely kilometres from Darwin to Adelaide.

Sometimes it is just a short run of 300 or so kilometres to Katherine, more often beyond into the vast open stretches of the Barkly Tablelands and the Gulf Country.

A few months ago I was cruising southbound out of Katherine one fine and too hot morning and something stuck on the side of a tree caught my eye. I’ll pull-up for all manner of road-kill and just about anything else of interest so I hit the brakes and did a u-turn.

This is what I saw.

Not much. Just a few words – David Duke.com – spelling out an abbreviated web address. But something rang a soft bell.

The next time I was within internet range I logged on and did a search and I soon realised that this sign was promoting David Duke. The white supremacist David Duke whose own website says that he:

… stands up for the right of every people on earth to preserve its heritage, culture and freedom. He stands bravely and honestly for true Human Diversity, Independence and Freedom! … He asserts that a matrix of international criminal banks, news and entertainment media, as well as Zionist political corruption drives the world toward war, toward economic exploitation and to destruction of fundamental human rights, health, freedom, human values and independence.

Others do not have such a charitable view of Mr Duke, particularly his move onto the internet. The Anti-Discrimination League (the ADL) says of Duke’s early days that:

… as a student at Louisiana State University, he founded the neo-Nazi group White Youth Alliance. After his graduation, Duke founded the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and launched a publicity blitz that boosted its membership. Duke tried to move the Klan into the mainstream, encouraging his Klansmen to “get out of the cow pasture and into hotel meeting rooms.”

The ADL notes that while Duke does not have the ‘depth or breadth’ of sites like Stormfront:

… his well-known name may attract curious, potential extremists browsing the Web. This is particularly troublesome considering Duke’s expressed belief in the Internet as a white supremacist recruitment tool and his recent offline activities.

I kept an eye out for more of these signs, crudely painted on old window louvres and roughly nailed just above head height into trees close to the road.

A few weeks later I found another, a few kilometres south along the Stuart Highway from the first. This faced northbound traffic.

It has many similarities to the first I’d found. The same child-like painting style and it is made of the same material – an old window louvre – and has the same badly driven nail sticking out of the top and reflective strip on the right-hand side.

A few weeks later drove 1,000 kilometres south from Darwin to Tennant Creek. I came across this one somewhere southbound out of Dunmarra. By this time they have run out of blue paint.

And just yesterday I came across another, northbound just before the Batchelor turnoff, eighty or so kilometres south of Darwin. The typography (for want of a better word) appears distinctly different to the others, with thinner lettering (though this may be just a finer brush) and with more ‘squared-off’ ‘Ds’ and ‘Us’.

So why do a few poorly scrawled bits of tin stuck on the sides of trees along the highway matter? Well, one reason is that while there is little evidence of any organised group of right-wing supremacists in the NT there is no shortage of references to Ku Klux Klan-like behaviour or apparent fan-boys.

In 2009 the local Sunday Territorian reported that there were Ku Klux Klan cells in Darwin and Alice Springs.

THE Ku Klux Klan has infiltrated Darwin, a senior US-based KKK leader has claimed. And a former top Klansman says there is a group in Alice Springs.

Speaking from Arkansas, Thomas Robb, the national director of the major Klan faction, The Knights Party, told the Sunday Territorian that the group – infamous for murders and violence against US blacks – was in Darwin and other major Australian cities. 

Johnny Lee Clary, who quit the Klan in 1989 and is now an internationally renowned anti-racism campaigner who regularly advises US and other law enforcement agencies about the group.

Mr Clary said it did not surprise him that they had set up in Alice Springs, nor did it surprise him that there was talk of a group in Darwin. “Wherever there are white people, they go and recruit,” he said. “They go to areas wherever there are any types of racial problems, for instance, where there have been problems between Aborigines and white people.”

In 2007 there were numerous reports of a bunch of drunken soldiers, believed to be based at the Robertson barracks just outside Darwin, playing dress-ups in a Ku Klux Klan outfit, complete with hood.

And of course the aforementioned Stormfront forum has a page dedicated to Australian topics, including themes like ‘Australian White Nationalism‘ and threads like “Why are there so many Asian people in my neighbourhood?’ (73 comments, 7,219 views) and really serious white supremacist stuff like ‘Do we need Nationalist Clubs/Bars?‘, which as of this evening had attracted 484 comments and 109,534 views.

I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for more ‘DavidDuke.com‘ signs up and down the highways but would love to hear from anyone with my peripatetic habits that may have come across the anonymous nailers’ handy-work elsewhere in the country.