Update on Australian Government measures to counter violent extremism: a quick guide

18 August 2017

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Cat Barker
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security

 

This quick guide provides an update on Australian Government measures and funding for countering violent extremism (CVE) since the publication of Australian Government Measures to Counter Violent Extremism: a Quick Guide in February 2015.

Terminology

The Australian Government defines violent extremism as follows (original emphasis):

Violent extremism is the beliefs and actions of people who support or use violence to achieve ideological, religious or political goals. This includes terrorism and other forms of politically motivated and communal violence.

All forms of violent extremism seek change through fear and intimidation rather than through peaceful means.

If a person or group decides that fear, terror and violence are justified to achieve ideological, political or social change, and then acts accordingly, this is violent extremism.

With CVE being a relatively new field, the terminology is still quite fluid. CVE is a broad term that has been used to refer to anything from broad-based social cohesion measures through to rehabilitation of terrorist offenders. Various researchers have drawn distinctions:

The distinction between deradicalisation and disengagement is also recognised in the Australian Government resource, Preventing Violent Extremism and Radicalisation in Australia. However, the various terms are sometimes used interchangeably or understood differently.

National framework

There is a national Countering Violent Extremism Intervention Framework (which does not appear to be publicly available) under which the National Diversion Team led by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and state-led intervention programs operate. In November 2015, the Minister for Justice stated that intervention programs were operational in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. In May 2017, the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) stated that programs were in place in all states and territories (indicating they have since become operational in South Australia and the Northern Territory), and that the Australian Government funds coordinators in each jurisdiction.

Federal strategy and program

The overarching CVE Strategy appears to have remained the same, but the Government announced its new CVE Programme in August 2014. A fact sheet states that the aim of the new program is ‘to combat the threat posed by home-grown terrorism and to discourage or deter Australians from travelling offshore to participate in conflicts’. It indicates that the emphasis of the program is on prevention and early intervention through tailored support, with new measures including:

  • Early intervention and counter radicalisation programmes to help and support people to deradicalise and disengage from violent ideologies.
  • Working with communities so they can help prevent people from moving down the path of radicalisation to violence, and
  • Addressing online radicalisation and reducing the impact of terrorist’s [sic] use of the social media by helping people to develop the digital skills needed to critically assess terrorists’ claims and promote alternative messages online.

Specific measures

The ‘Countering violent extremism’ page of the AGD website states that the Government’s approach is built around ‘four complementary streams of activity’. Information on the types of activities is set out on that page, and some information on the specific measures in each stream is provided below.

‘Building strength in diversity and social participation’

The Government includes its Living Safe Together website and multicultural, social cohesion and community harmony programs in this stream. Such programs are funded and administered separately to the CVE Programme, under the Department of Social Services (DSS; some funding was redirected from DSS to AGD-led CVE initiatives in the 2016–17 Budget—see further below).

‘Targeted work with vulnerable communities and institutions’

Work with state and territory governments on programs to rehabilitate people imprisoned for terrorism-related offences and prevent radicalisation of other prisoners falls under this stream, as does development of training and resources for the community and educators.

The Commonwealth provides funding each year to the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC), some of which goes towards funding and coordinating CVE projects (see ‘Federal funding for CVE measures’ below). These include the nationally available training and resource package (Indicators of Radicalisation for Corrections Officers) and funding for prison-based programs in NSW and Victoria (where most of the people imprisoned for terrorist-related offences are held). In October 2016, the Attorney-General stated that the Federal Government funded the Proactive Integrated Support Model in NSW (‘a disengagement model that aims to target inmates who are at risk of radicalisation’) and the Community Integration Support Program in Victoria (‘a community-led and driven initiative which aims to rehabilitate imprisoned terrorists by offering a holistic approach to rehabilitation, including both pre- and post-release components’).

‘Addressing terrorist propaganda online’

When the Attorney-General announced the Combating Terrorist Propaganda in Australia initiative in February 2015, he described it as follows:

The new initiative will establish a social media monitoring and analysis capability to better understand extremist narratives and how they affect Australians. The measures will also help reduce access to extremist material online through the recently launched Report Online Extremism tool and by working with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, private sector and international partners to take down or otherwise address extremist content.

The reporting tool is part of the Living Safe Together website. The Daily Telegraph reported on 5 February 2016 that Google, Facebook, Twitter and other search and social media sites had joined a Commonwealth Government initiative to ‘divert Australian online searches for extreme militant and propaganda terrorism-type material towards warnings about radicalisation’.

‘Diversion and deradicalisation’

This stream includes funding and coordination of state and territory-led CVE intervention programs:

The intervention programmes involve developing individually tailored case management plans to connect at-risk individuals with services such as mentoring and coaching, counselling, education and employment support. The radicalisation to violence process is unique to each person, so responses need to be flexible and meet the individual's needs.

...

People can be referred into intervention programmes in several ways, including by police, community leaders, family members, or teachers—any concerned parties who have noticed behaviours in that person that could suggest they are becoming radicalised towards violent extremism.

AGD provided further details at a Budget Estimates hearing held on 24 May 2017.

The National Disruption Group (NDG), led by the AFP, brings together a range of federal departments and agencies as well as state and territory police to coordinate operational disruption activities targeted at countering threats posed by so-called ‘foreign fighters’. The NDG’s Diversion Team is focused on alternatives to prosecution and ‘acts as the conduit’ between federal authorities and the state-led intervention programs. Further information on the work of the Diversion Team is provided in an article in the April 2016 edition of the AFP’s Platypus Magazine, ‘Diversion in Australia: not your traditional counter-terrorism response’.

This is also the stream under which the former Living Safe Together Grants Programme (LSTGP) was included. Under the LSTGP, approximately $2 million in total was awarded in one-off grants to 41 community-based organisations in 2014–15. Unlike the Building Community Resilience Grants, which were for service provision, the grants under the LSTGP were made to help build those organisations’ capacity to deliver services (such as ‘leadership, mentoring, counselling, education and employment support programmes’). Further information is provided on the ‘FAQs about the Living Safe Together Grants Programme’ page of the AGD website. The Appendix provides details of the recipients (where they were disclosed) and the amounts granted. The Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines require departments and agencies to publish on their websites the details of all grants, while allowing some details to be omitted, including on privacy grounds.

In addition to the four ‘streams’ outlined above, the ‘Countering violent extremism’ page of the AGD website points to ‘supporting activities’ (international engagement and engagement with academia) and notes that a request for tender (RFT) was issued on 19 April 2017 for the provision of CVE services. The RFT sought responses in relation to research and evaluation, training, and non-campaign creative and design services.

Three current projects in universities were outlined in AGD’s response to a question taken on notice at Budget Supplementary Estimates on 12 December 2016:

Youth resilience to violent extremism (Victoria University)
This project will develop a standardised measure for identifying and strengthening young people's resilience to violent extremism at community level. The project is a collaboration between researchers at Victoria University and Dalhousie University (Canada). The department is providing at [sic] total of $159,324 to support this project in 2016 and 2017.

CVE Evaluation (Victoria University)
This project will evaluate CVE services for the purpose of improvement and informing the design and evaluation of other services nationally. The department is providing a total of $181,818 for this project from 2016 to 2018.

Establishment of a network of Civil Society Organisations (Deakin University)
This project is establishing a network of civil society organisations that are working in the Southeast Asia region to counter violent extremism. The project is aimed at facilitating peer-to-peer learning and partnerships. The department is providing a total of $342,342 for this project in 2016 and 2017.

Federal funding for CVE measures under the Abbott and Turnbull governments

The CVE Programme was allocated $13.4 million over four years as part of a $64 million package of measures aimed at countering violent extremism and radicalisation. This package was itself part of a broader counter-terrorism package announced on 5 August 2014 and detailed in the 2014–15 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. The $64 million also included $6.2 million to establish the NDG Diversion Team.

A total of $21.7 million in new funding was allocated in the 2015–16 Budget to the Combating Terrorist Propaganda in Australia measure initially announced in February 2015.

A further $4 million was allocated in the 2016–17 Budget for AGD to establish and trial community support and advice services in conjunction with the states and territories. The amount was redirected from DSS.

Funding for CVE through the Australia New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee

Funding for CVE and deradicalisation programs is also provided through the ANZCTC. All funding associated with the Australian Government’s contribution to the ANZCTC, not all of which is associated with such interventions, is included in a single line item in the Portfolio Budget Statements. However, some further information on CVE spending through the ANZCTC has been provided by the Minister for Justice and by AGD.

An AGD response to a question taken on notice at a Budget Supplementary Estimates hearing in November 2014 stated that of the annual funding provided to the ANZCTC, ‘$2 million a year is committed to funding and coordinating CVE projects across Australia’. The Minister for Justice stated on 15 October 2015 that the Government is providing $11.2 million to support state-led intervention programs, and that it ‘also supports prison deradicalisation programs in New South Wales and Victoria’. While it is not clear what period of time that funding covers, in the context of the broader answer given by the minister, it appears likely to refer to funding over the forward estimates.

Details of grants made through the ANZCTC are included in the Grants Registers on the AGD website:

  • The 2013–14 register listed 19 entries (to 10 recipients), but provides no detail on the purpose of the grants.
  • The 2014–15 register listed 17 entries (to 12 recipients), but provides little detail on the purpose of the grants.
  • The 2015–16 register listed 18 entries (to 14 recipients) for the ANZCTC sub-program totalling $3,538,521 including GST, of which $1,933,049 (across seven grants to five recipients) related to the ‘CVESC Program’ (this appears to refer to the Countering Violent Extremism Sub-Committee of the ANZCTC). The recipients for the CVESC Program funding were the Queensland Police Service, Victoria Police, Corrective Services NSW, Multicultural NSW and Multicultural Affairs Queensland.
  • The 2016–17 register listed just one grant under the ANZCTC sub-program, and it was for the ‘Data to Decisions Cooperative Research Centre’, not the CVESC Program. The same is true of the 2017–18 register (which had last been updated on 16 August 2017), but further entries may be added throughout the financial year.

 

Appendix: Grants awarded under the Living Safe Together Grants Programme

Grant recipient State Total value
(inc GST)
Date of effect
Grants for which the recipient was disclosed
Auburn Youth Centre Inc. NSW $40,355 4/6/15
Bankstown Multicultural Youth Service Inc. NSW $55,000 4/6/15
The Reach Foundation Vic. $38,126 4/6/15
University of New South Wales NSW $55,000 4/6/15
People Against Violent Extremism WA $40,800 5/6/15
Southern Ethnic Advisory & Advocacy Council Vic. $70,774 5/6/15
Victoria Arabic Social Services Vic. $55,000 5/6/15
Vocational Education and Training Network Australia Limited SA $55,000 5/6/15
The Migrant Centre Organisation Inc. Qld $24,805 6/6/15
Migrant Resource Centre of South Australia SA $70,774 17/6/15
Queensland Police - Citizens Youth Welfare Association Qld $55,000 17/6/15
Somali Australian Council of Victoria Vic. $50,000 17/6/15
The Learning and Life Centre (Huddle) Ltd Vic. $55,000 17/6/15
The Trustee for Save the Children Australia Vic. $70,774 17/6/15
Victorian and Refugee Women’s Coalition Vic. $56,881 17/6/15
Grants for which a recipient was not disclosed
  N/A $54,593 4/6/15
  NSW $60,500 4/6/15
  NSW $84,150 4/6/15
  NSW $45,000 4/6/15
  NSW $55,000 5/6/15
  NSW $55,000 5/6/15
  Qld $55,000 5/6/15
  Vic. $37,530 17/6/15
  Vic. $50,969 17/6/15
  Vic. $16,500 17/6/15
  Qld $55,000 17/6/15
  Qld $55,000 17/6/15
  ACT $55,000 17/6/15
  NSW $55,000 17/6/15
  NSW $25,064 17/6/15
  NSW $54,945 17/6/15
  Vic. $55,000 17/6/15
  Qld $55,000 17/6/15
  NSW $55,000 17/6/15
  Qld $26,180 19/6/15
  Qld $50,600 19/6/15
  NSW $52,885 19/6/15
  NSW $49,900 19/6/15
  NSW $55,000 19/6/15
  Vic. $47,300 19/6/15
  SA $55,000 19/6/15
  TOTAL $2,109,405  

Source: AGD, Grants register from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015.

 

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