Australia: Extremism and Terrorism

On May 4, 2022, New Zealand Coroner Brigitte Windley announced the topics she would pursue in a coronial inquest into the Christchurch attacks that killed 51 Muslim worshippers at Al Noor and Linwood mosques in March 2019. The inquest, which was launched in October 2021 by New Zealand’s Chief Coroner, Judge Deborah Marshall, will reportedly examine what role social media played in radicalizing Australian perpetrator Brenton Tarrant, if Tarrant acted alone, how he obtained a firearms license and if the method of procuring weapons could be directly linked to the attack, and how emergency services responded to the attack. In regards to Tarrant’s online activities, Windley stated she would focus on the period between 2014 and 2017, before he moved to New Zealand from Australia and began planning the attack. An inquest date has yet to be scheduled. Tarrant was sentenced to life in prison without parole by a New Zealand court on August 27, 2020. (Sources: Guardian, 7 News)

On March 17, 2021, Aran and Ari Sherani were arrested during counterterrorism raids in Melbourne after Aran allegedly purchased a knife in preparation for an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack. Police alleged Aran was radicalized online before radicalizing his brother. Both brothers were charged in relation to a February 21 attempted attack in Humevale, in which a fire was lit in bushland outside of Melbourne. Aran Shirani also faces charges in relation to a March 9 assault that left one injured. (Sources: Guardian, 9News, Australian Press Association)

According to Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, as of March 2022, 144 people have been charged in 71 counterterrorism related operations around Australia since 2014 while 18 convicted terrorists were due for release within the next four years. Australia continues to invest in its existing counter-extremism measures, as well as the creation of new resources. In February 2022, the government announced a $61.7 million investment into countering violent extremism (CVE) programs, including the creation of a national program to rehabilitate and reintegrate violent extremists in custody and the creation of an international Centre of Excellence for CVE Research, Risk Assessment and Training. In March 2022, the Australian government announced a new counterterrorism strategy with a further investment of $86.7 million, including $19.8 million allocated for the creation of a High Risk Terrorist Offender Registry that would impose long-term reporting obligations on all Commonwealth terrorist offenders after the end of their custodial sentences. The government also allocated $66.9 million toward a new registry to specifically target and impose reporting conditions on high-risk terrorists who are due for release and have shown no signs of reformation. (Sources: Australian Home Affairs, Australian Home Affairs, Channel 7 News)

Australia faces an increasing threat from the radicalization of Australians drawn to Islamist ideology. More than 150 Australians have joined foreign jihadist groups. The Soufan Group said in its December 2015 report that unofficially 255 Australians have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq. At least 20 Australian foreign fighters have returned home, raising government concerns that Australians radicalized abroad will return to carry out domestic terrorism. (Sources: The Soufan Group, Time, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, United Nations)

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has noted an increase in violent activity among left- and right-wing extremist groups in Australia. During the agency’s first “annual threat assessment” speech on February 24, 2020, ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess warned that far-right extremism was growing in the country and cited the activities of far-right cells in suburban Australia. Additionally, the conflict in Ukraine has reportedly attracted several fighters from Australia who have been linked to white supremacist and ultra-nationalist movements. In March 2021, Burgess announced the ASIO would replace the terms “Islamic extremism” and “right-wing extremism” with broader categories of “ideologically motivated violent extremism” and “religiously motivated violent extremism.” The change is due to the need to investigate people based on the threat of violence, rather than just political views, according to Burgess. (Sources: ASIO, Canberra Times, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Guardian)

The December 2014 hostage crisis at a Sydney café was part of a string of domestic extremist-related events. The country raised its terrorist threat level from medium to high in September 2014 for the first time in 11 years in response to threats of an impending domestic attack. A massive terrorism raid that month uncovered an ISIS-related plot to behead Australians. (Source:

Since 2014, at least 144 people have been charged in 71 counterterrorism-related operations around Australia. In February 2015, then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott proposed tougher counter-extremism measures in response to the December 2014 hostage crisis. The government previously enacted a series of laws in 2014 to increase border security and enhance domestic counterterrorism operations. It also canceled the passports of dozens of Australian citizens suspected of joining extremist groups such as ISIS to prevent their travel abroad. Additionally, Australia has enacted a series of community outreach programs to combat homegrown radicalization. On April 4, 2019, the Australian government passed legislation that threatened to fine social media companies and jail their executives if the platforms failed to “expeditiously” remove “abhorrent violent material.” Australia has continued to invest tens of millions of dollars in existing and new counter-extremism measures. (Sources: Australian Attorney General’s Office, Telegraph, New York Times, Australian Home Affairs, Australian Home Affairs)

Homegrown Radicalization

At least 23 Australians, mostly native-born, have been convicted of domestic terrorism charges since 2001. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) believes “several hundred” Australians advocate violent Islamist ideologies. (Sources: Australian Government: Living Safe Together, ASIO)

In 2014, the ASIO warned that nationalist and ethnic tensions could lead to future violence. Several anti-Islam groups have appeared in Australia, primarily online, since May 2013. These groups engage in “hostile, abusive and threatening online exchanges” with members of Australia’s Muslim community. In February 2020, ASIO Director General Mike Burgess noted that, though violent Islamist fundamentalism remained the organization’s primary concern, the threat of rightwing extremism was “real and growing.” (Sources: ASIO, Guardian)

The ASIO “strongly linked” domestic terrorism to political, ideological, and cultural conflicts abroad. International jihadist groups increasingly rely on the Internet and social media to encourage lone actors to engage in stand-alone domestic attacks and overseas extremism. Together with traditional extremist networks, these extremists justify their beliefs primarily because of the Syrian civil war, disagreements with Australia’s overseas military operations, or a belief that Australian values conflict with extreme Islamist views. (Source: ASIO)

Members of Australia’s Muslim community have accused the government of feeding into radicalization. Community members said during a September 2014 protest they were terrified during anti-terror raids earlier that month. The president of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, Keysar Trad, blamed the government’s “negative campaigns” against building new mosques for helping to radicalize Australian youth. (Sources: Daily Mail,

International groups and domestic terror networks have previously targeted Australia. The September 2014 raids resulted in the arrest of 15 Australians ready to kidnap and behead random people under the direction of an Australian ISIS leader. Three people were convicted after 2009’s Operation Neath uncovered an al-Shabab cell planning to attack army barracks in Sydney. In 2004, authorities began a 17-month investigation, Operation Pendennis, after receiving a tip from members of the Muslim community. In November 2005, the investigation uncovered two extremist cells in Melbourne and Sydney planning domestic terror attacks under the direction of radical Islamic cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika, a.k.a. Abu Bakr. (Sources: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Religious Indoctrination

Abdul Nacer Benbrika and other radical Islamic clerics have fueled homegrown extremism in Australia. Benbrika came to the country on a tourist visa in 1989 from Algeria. He claimed he loved the “Australian lifestyle” and became a permanent resident after marrying a Lebanese-Australian woman in 1992. He received a disability pension and did not work, so he spent his time immersed in Islamic studies. In an August 2005 interview prior to his arrest, Benrika denied his involvement in extremism and said he was teaching his followers the Quran. Benbrika told the media there were two laws, Australian law and Islamic law. Islam, he said, is the only law that needs to be spread. He also spoke of his admiration for Osama bin Laden. Benbrika became Australia’s first convicted Muslim cell leader in 2009 when a judge sentenced him to at least 12 years in prison. On November 25, 2020, Australia revoked Benbrika’s citizenship. He was the first person to lose Australian citizenship while still residing in the country. The cancellation came a month before Benbrika was to become eligible for parole. (Sources: Reuters, Sydney Morning Herald, Australian, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, BBC News)

Benbrika completed his prison sentence in November 2020 but remained in prison after then-Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton applied for a continuing detention order. The Victoria High Court ruled Benbrika remained at high risk of reoffending and authorized his continued incarceration. The law the court cited allows further three-year extensions for dangerous individuals such as Benbrika. Benbrika launched two legal appeals, charging that the law extending his detention was unconstitutional and that the Victorian Supreme Court judge who had exercised it had made a legal error. Benbrika lost his first appeal against the constitutionality of the law in February 2021. In November 2021, Victoria’s Court of Appeal ruled no legal error had been made and Benbrika could remain in prison. (Sources: 9 News, Al Jazeera, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, High Court of Australia)

Feiz Moham­mad, a.k.a. Sheikh Feiz, is considered one of Australia’s top radical Islamic preachers. He was tied to several members of the Melbourne and Sydney jihadist cells broken up in 2005. Mohammad founded the Global Islamic Youth Centre in a Sydney suburb where his violent and extremist sermons reached more than 4,000 Muslims. His sermons are available on YouTube and for sale on DVD. In one sermon, he criticized Australian Muslims for not shedding blood in the name of jihad. Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev cited Mohammad as an inspiration. Mohammad left Australia for Lebanon in 2005 but continues to release his sermons online and on DVD. (Sources: International Business Times,

Musa Cerantonio

Musa Cerantonio is an Australian Islamist preacher who has inspired numerous foreign fighters to join jihadist groups in Syria. Australian intelligence reportedly believes Cerantonio to be among the top three most important jihadist preachers in the world. According to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), Cerantonio is “an outspoken cheerleader for ISIS” and one of two English-speaking “spiritual authorities” influencing Westerners to fight abroad. Cerantonio used social media to correspond with ISIS foreign fighters, call for the assassination of U.S. leaders, and praise foreign fighters in Syria. He also briefly had an English-language television show called “Ask the Sheikh,” in which he answered questions on sharia (Islamic law) from viewers around the world. The show aired on a Saudi satellite station. (Sources: Herald Sun, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, Sydney Morning Herald, Guardian, MEMRI)

Born Robert Cerantonio to an Irish-Catholic family, Cerantonio converted to Islam when he was 17 years old. He moved to the Philippines in 2013 where he used YouTube to call for jihad and praise ISIS, according to the Philippine police who deported Cerantonio in July 2014. Australian authorities have called Cerantonio’s social media posts “offensive and disturbing” but said they do not violate Australian law. His Twitter and Facebook accounts have been shut down but many of his videos remain on YouTube. (Sources: Daily Mail, Herald Sun, Associated Press, Reuters)

Cerantonio and four others were arrested in Australia in May 2016 while allegedly attempting to sail to Indonesia. According to Australian federal police, they intended to continue on to Syria to join ISIS. Arrested with Cerantonio were Kadir Kaya, Shayden Thorne, Paul James Dacre, and Antonino Granata. All five had previously had their passports revoked. They were each charged with one count of making preparations for incursions into foreign countries for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Later that month, police arrested Kaya’s older brother, Murat Kaya. The elder Kaya had planned to travel to Syria with the others but pulled out prior to their departure. (Sources: Guardian, Guardian, TelegraphAnadolu Agency)

In February 2019, Cerantonio and his five co-conspirators pled guilty to engaging in conduct in preparation for hostile activities in a foreign country. Dacre, Granata, and Kadir Kaya were each sentenced to four years in prison. Justice Michael Croucher said the four men would not have been involved if not for the “charismatic” Cerantonio. Murat Kaya was sentenced to three years and eight months. Cerantonio and Thorne also pled guilty but were not sentenced at the same time. Thorne was sentenced a week later to three years and 10 months in prison. On May 3, 2019, Cerantonio was sentenced to seven years in prison with a minimum non-parole period of five years and three months. Due to time already served since their arrests in 2016, most of the conspirators were released under government restrictions in 2020. Murat Kaya was released on parole in January 2020. Thorne was released that March. Granata was released that May. Kaya and Granata were re-arrested in November 2020 for parole violations related to cellphone usage. The court ruled the violations were “not sinister.” (Sources: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Australian Broadcasting Corporation,, Daily Mail, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian, 7News)

In October 2021, Australian media reported Cerantonio had written a letter to a friend that past June renouncing “Islam and jihadist extremism.” Cerantonio wrote he felt “terrible” knowing he influenced others to “dedicate themselves to tyrannical death cults.” According to the letter, Cerantonio had spent a large amount of time reading and researching while in prison and undergone a “religious and ideological belief since mid-2019.” In the letter, Cerantonio referred to ISIS as “suicidal maniacs” and a “death cult.” Cerantonio wrote he had “something of a duty to clean up the mess to which” he contributed. (Source: Herald Sun)

In a March 2022 piece for the Atlantic, journalist Graeme Wood revealed he had been the recipient of Cerantonio’s 2021 letter renouncing ISIS. According to Wood, Cerantonio also renounced Islam and became an atheist and reader of renowned atheist and author Richard Dawkins—though Cerantonio has said he still disagrees with Dawkins in several areas. In Wood’s account, Cerantonio reached his conclusion about Islam while studying the Quran in prison. He focused on a figure in the 18th chapter of the Quran called Dhu-l Qarnayn, “the two-horned one.” According to Wood, Cerantonio noted similarities between Dhu-l Qarnayn and a fabulized version of Alexander the Great in Aramaic, which he later determined the Quran had plagiarized. Cerantonio wrote to Wood, “Realizing that Dhu-l Qarnayn was not at all a real person but was rather based on a fictional account of Alexander the Great instantly left me with only one possible conclusion: The Quran was not divinely inspired.” Cerantonio told Wood ISIS’s murderous activities were consistent with what he knew of Islamic teachings, but the Alexander plagiarism failed intellectual tests. After abandoning Islam, Cerantonio began using his English name, Robert.  While serving the remainder of his sentence, he has also met with other jihadists in prison to help deprogram them. Wood reported Cerantonio has had some success but his own deprogramming—based on in-depth readings using multiple translations—is not easily replicated because of the time, patience, and level of education necessary to reach the same conclusions as Cerantonio. (Source: Atlantic)

Khaled Cheikho and Family

Khaled Cheikho led the Sydney terrorist cell that authorities broke up in 2005. A court found the cell members possessed thousands of images and videos of executions. Four cell members pled guilty, while five denied the charges. They were later convicted. Cell members admitted at trial to possessing ammunition and trying to make an improvised explosive device. Cheikho received a 27-year sentence. His nephew Mustafa, who also belonged to the Sydney cell, received a 26-year sentence. (Sources: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney Morning Herald)

Other members of Cheikho’s family have also been tied to extremism. Cheikho’s wife, Rahmah Wisudo, lives in Jordan with their son. A 2010 U.S. embassy cable named Wisudo as one of 11 Australians to be placed on a no-fly list due to “demonstrated links” to al-Qaeda. The cable also named Wisudo’s mother, Rabiah Hutchinson. Known as the “matriarch of radical Islam in Australia,” Hutchinson is an Australian-born Muslim convert who spent time in Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. Hutchinson has been married several times, including to high-ranking leaders of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and al-Qaeda. Australian authorities canceled her passport in 2003 because of her ties to these groups. (Sources: Sydney Morning Herald, Australian)

Hutchinson spent time in Indonesia working for a school created by JI cofounder Abu Bakar Bashir. She moved to Afghanistan in 2000. Osama bin Laden recommended Hutchinson go to Kabul. There Hutchinson ran an al-Qaeda-affiliated health clinic. She married Mustafa Hamid, a member of al-Qaeda’s Shura Council, and became close friends with the wife of future al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Hutchinson and her family fled Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, attacks and ended up in Iran. The ASIO returned Hutchinson and her family to Australia in 2003. Hutchinson has not been officially charged, but authorities believe she has “directly supported extremist activities.” The book The Mother of Mohammed details Hutchinson’s life.  (Sources: Sydney Morning Herald, Australian, Australian, Australian, BBC News)

Wisudo’s half-brothers Illias and Abdullah Ayub were also named in the 2010 cable for their links to al-Qaeda. The brothers are the sons of Hutchinson and her third ex-husband, former JI cell leader Abdul Rahim Ayub. The brothers were detained in Yemen in 2006 for allegedly transporting guns to Somalia as part of an al-Qaeda cell with Marek Samulski of Sydney. Illias Ayub has since become a fighter for ISIS in Syria under the name Mohammad Ayub. He has appeared in several social media photos featuring guns and ISIS flags. (Sources: Sydney Morning Herald, Australian, Australian, Daily Telegraph)

Foreign Fighters

According to the ASIO’s 2014 Report to Parliament, the number of Australians “training and fighting with, or otherwise assisting, groups” in the Middle East conflicts “is at an unprecedented level.” Australian authorities stopped 230 suspected jihadists from leaving the country for the Middle East in March 2015 alone. Earlier that month, ISIS posted an online step-by-step guide on how to leave Australia to join ISIS. The guide included instructions to bypass Australian security, routes to get to Syria, and even packing tips. It also included a list of ISIS-affiliated Twitter users to act as a support network. (Sources: Associated Press,

The ASIO claims that the Syrian civil war is the primary reason behind Australia’s increased terrorism threat. Australians have shown up on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria and in leading roles training fighters. Analysts estimated in December 2015 that 255 Australians had thus far joined the fighting in Syria and Iraq. As of March 2017, Australian authorities believed 100 Australians were still currently fighting in Iraq and Syria. The ASIO believes Australia’s foreign fighters have largely joined the Nusra Front and ISIS, which desire English-speaking recruits to carry out attacks in the West. In September 2014, ISIS called on its followers to exact revenge against Australia and other countries participating in airstrikes against the terror group. (Sources: The Soufan Group, Daily Telegraph, BBC News, Time, Time, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ASIO

Women reportedly account for one-fifth of all Australian foreign fighters. Up to 40 women had gone to Syria and Iraq to participate in terrorism or marry jihadists as of February 2015. (Source: BBC News)

The ASIO’s 2017-2018 report indicated that authorities expected “a very small number” of Australian foreign fighters to return to the country voluntarily or through deportation. Nonetheless, the government remains concerned foreign fighters will pose a national security threat if they return to Australia. The ASIO warned that returning foreign fighters hold a higher status among Australia’s Islamist extremists, which they could exploit to radicalize and recruit others. Former Prime Minister Abbott believed Australians who fight alongside ISIS have sided against Australia and should be considered enemies of the state. Abbott also revealed in October 2014 that 100 Australia-based “facilitators”—e.g., recruiters and fundraisers—were supporting Australians fighting in Iraq and Syria. (Sources: ASIO, BBC News, Time, Time, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

The Succarieh family of Brisbane provides an example of the relationship between foreign fighters and facilitators. Authorities charged Omar Succarieh in September 2014 with funding the Nusra Front. According to police, Omar began sending thousands of dollars to his brother Abraham in the Nusra Front between August 2013 and September 2014. Omar had reportedly planned to travel to Syria to avoid arrest and join the fighting. Abraham Succarieh flew from Brisbane to Dubai on September 10, 2013, to join the Nusra Front in Syria. A third brother, Ahmad, became Australia’s first suicide bomber in Syria that same month. (Sources: Brisbane Times, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

On December 9, 2019, Australian national Agim Ajazi was arrested in Australia after being extradited from Turkey. He had traveled to Turkey after fighting with internationally sanctioned terrorist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in Syria. Ajazi faces five charges including providing support to a terrorist organization, advocating terrorism, and membership of a terrorist organization. (Sources: Kurdistan 24, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Australian Suicide Bombers

At least three Australians have become suicide bombers in Iraq and Syria. Ahmad Succarieh, a.k.a. Abu Asma al-Australi, killed 35 Syrian soldiers when he drove a truck filled with 12 metric tons of explosives into a checkpoint close to Syria’s Deir Al Zour military airport on September 11, 2013. The Nusra Front released a video on YouTube showing Succarieh preparing for the attack. On July 17, 2014, an 18-year-old from Melbourne known as Abu Bakr al-Australi killed three people and wounded dozens at a Baghdad market. (Sources: UPI, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney Morning Herald)

Twelve car bombs exploded simultaneously across Iraq on March 11, 2015, killing at least 17 people and wounding 38. Shortly after the attack, ISIS identified Abu Abdullah al-Australi as one of at least seven suicide bombers responsible. Australian authorities recognized al-Australi as 18-year-old Jake Bilardi, a Melbourne teen who the Australian media had dubbed “the white jihadi” after he appeared in a December 2014 ISIS video. (Sources: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Guardian, CNN)

Bilardi had maintained a blog in which he described his radicalization from “an Atheist school student in affluent Melbourne to a soldier of the Khilafah preparing to sacrifice my life for Islam.” Though Bilardi was just 5 years old during the September 11, 2001, attacks, they sparked his interest in al-Qaeda and similar ideologies. He later wrote how he empathized with Iraqi and Afghan insurgents fighting against Western forces. He grew to believe “that violent global revolution was necessary to eliminate this system of governance and that I would likely be killed in this struggle.” Bilardi, who initially intended to join the Nusra Front, made online contact with a Syrian jihadist who helped him get to the country in August 2014. His family reported him missing and police discovered bomb-making materials after searching his home. Australia canceled his passport that October. The blog has since been deleted. (Sources: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Guardian, CNN)

ISIS Propaganda

Several Australians have appeared in ISIS propaganda threatening violence against the West. Seventeen-year-old Abdullah Elmir disappeared from his Sydney home in June 2014 and reappeared under the name Abu Kaled in an ISIS YouTube video later that year. Dressed in military fatigues and holding a rifle, Elmir promised the militants would not stop fighting until “we reach your lands and until we take the head of every tyrant and until the black flag is flying high in every single land, until we put the black flag on top of Buckingham Palace, until we put the black flag on top of the White House.” (Source: Guardian)

Abu Yusseph, a.k.a. Zia Abdulhan, left his ex-wife and child in Brisbane to join ISIS in Aleppo, Syria. Yusseph has actively promoted ISIS on social media by posting pictures of himself and other foreign fighters. Additionally, Melbourne resident Abu Khaled al-Cambodi has appeared in several ISIS videos. A June 2014 video called “There Is No Life Without Jihad” featured him and two other Australians: Abu Yahya ash Shami, believed to have been killed shortly after the taping, and Abu Nour al Iraqi. (Sources: Daily Mail, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Neil Prakash

Neil Prakash, also known as Abu Khaled al-Cambodi, is an ISIS recruiter and was reportedly the most senior Australian fighting with ISIS. Australian Attorney General George Brandis has labeled him “the most dangerous Australian we knew of” fighting with the terror group. Prakash left Australia for Syria in 2013. Australian authorities tied him to a failed April 2015 terror plot in Australia targeting the Anzac Day parade. Prakash had a prolific Twitter presence in which he recruited for and promoted ISIS. In August 2015, Prakash used Twitter to call for an attack on Australia and announce the death of fellow Australian ISIS member Khaled Sharrouf. Also that month, Prakash posted a spreadsheet online with the names, addresses, and passwords of people working in the British Foreign Office, as well as almost 1,500 U.S. military personnel. (Sources: Sydney Morning Herald, Daily Mail, Sydney Morning Herald, Telegraph, Telegraph)

Australia issued an arrest warrant for Prakash in August 2015. Prakash was erroneously reported killed in an April 2016 U.S. airstrike in Iraq. Australian media revealed in November 2016 that Prakash had been arrested in Turkey while trying to cross into Syria. In July 2018, Turkey rejected Australia’s extradition request on terrorism charges, raising concerns in Australia that Prakash could go free. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has pledged to continue fighting for Prakash’s extradition. Prakash faces a potential life sentence in Australia. (Sources: Herald Sun, Sydney Morning Herald, Daily Mail, Telegraph,, Guardian, Associated Press, Sydney Morning Herald

On December 29, 2018, Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced that Prakash had been stripped of his Australian citizenship. Dutton reiterated that Prakash was instrumental in ISIS’s operations in the Middle East. According to the BBC, Prakash, who also holds Fijian citizenship, is the 12th dual citizen to be stripped of Australian citizenship. A Turkish court sentenced Prakash to seven-and-a-half years in prison in March 2019. That July, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry argued that Prakash’s Australian citizenship should be reinstated because he would be more dangerous abroad than if he were imprisoned in Australia. (Sources: BBC News, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian)

Because of time already served, Prakash became eligible for parole at the end of 2021. He was released in February 2022 and transferred to an immigration detention center in Elbeyli, Turkey, as Australia and Fiji still refused to take custody of him. (Sources: Herald Sun, Daily Mail)

Khaled Sharrouf

Khaled Sharrouf had been a member of the Sydney terrorist cell arrested in 2005’s Operation Pendennis. Sharrouf had a history of mental illness and came from an abusive home in Western Sydney. In 2009, he pled guilty to the plot and said that he had believed at the time that it was his responsibility as a devout Muslim to kill infidels. A court psychiatrist believed his mental health had improved and he was unlikely to return to terrorism. The court sentenced him to time served and released him. 

Sharrouf, whose passport was revoked, used his brother’s passport to travel to Syria in 2013. His wife and their five children soon followed him. Sharrouf has since moved to Iraq to fight alongside ISIS. In August 2014, he tweeted a picture of his 7-year-old son holding a severed head with the caption, “That’s my boy!” Australian authorities believe Sharrouf to be dangerous, but say they are more concerned by Australian ISIS fighters who have not identified themselves and might return to the country unnoticed. (Sources: Time, Australian,, Washington Post)

Sharrouf reportedly died in a June 2015 drone strike in Iraq that also killed Australian foreign fighter Mohamed Elomar. (Source: Daily Mail)

Abu Sulayman al Muhajir

The Nusra Front released a video in March 2014 of one of its senior sharia officials, Abu Sulayman al Muhajir (“the immigrant”). Abu Sulayman, whose real name is Mostafa Mahamed, is Australia’s highest-ranking al-Qaeda member. Abu Sulayman had encouraged young men in Sydney to take up arms in Syria in 2012. He arrived in Syria in 2013 and became a “magnet” for foreign fighters, according to Australian officials. Combat photos of Abu Sulayman appeared on a Nusra Front Twitter account in 2014. He has appeared in several Nusra Front videos condemning ISIS for “stealing the right” of Islamic clerics to consult on the declaration of an Islamic state. ISIS fighter and fellow Australian Khaled Sharrouf has accused Abu Sulayman of being an ASIO informant and offered a $10,000 bounty for him on Twitter. (Sources: Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald, Australian)

Ashley Johnston

Twenty-eight-year-old Australian Ashley Johnston died on February 24, 2015, fighting ISIS alongside the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Iraq. ISIS fighters ambushed Johnston, a.k.a. Heval Bagok Serhed, and other YPG members after their truck broke down. Johnston reportedly sacrificed himself so others could escape. His body was flown back to Australia on March 14 after a funeral in Iraq where mourners waved Australian flags and held up pictures of Johnston. He was reportedly the first Westerner to die fighting against ISIS.

Johnston was a former Australian army reservist from Queensland. He had gone to Europe in October 2014, telling his family and friends he was going to Greenland. His mother, Amanda Johnston, told Australian media she learned her son was in Iraq from a December 30, 2014, text message he sent her. She thought her son was doing humanitarian work with the Kurds, not fighting against ISIS.

Johnston would have faced a 20-year prison sentence if he had returned to Australia. The Australian Kurdish community hailed him as a hero, but Australian authorities are worried his death will encourage other Australians to go to Syria. According to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the YPG does not actively recruit foreigners, but its ranks include people from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Holland, and France. (Sources: Daily Mail, Sydney Morning Herald, BBC News)

Far-Right Extremism

On February 24, 2020, during a presentation of the ASIO’s “annual threat assessment,” Director-General Mike Burgess cited small right-wing cells in Australian suburbs that met to salute Nazi symbols and conduct weapons and combat training. ASIO also reported that Australians were joining international white supremacist groups such as The Base. The group uses online platforms to spread extremist propaganda and encourage acts of violence. Though right-wing attacks in Australia are deemed to be of “low capability”—such as with a knife, gun, or vehicle—more sophisticated attacks are a possibility. In November 2021, Australia’s government announced its intention to designate The Base as a terrorist group. The Base is the second far-right group to be designated as a terrorist organization after Australia designed the Sonnenkrieg Division in March 2021. (Sources: Canberra Times, Guardian, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Reuters)

In an undisclosed case in early 2020, an Australian individual was prevented from leaving the country to join “an extreme right-wing group on a foreign battlefield.” The ASIO declined to reveal the would-be foreign fighter’s identity. This was not the first such case, however. In October 2018, the Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin met with their Ukrainian counterparts, where they were presented with a list of five Australian citizens who had reportedly traveled to Ukraine to fight alongside a Russian-backed nationalist militia. The conflict in Ukraine has attracted extremists from around the world, many with ties to far-right or ultra-nationalist groups in their home countries. In 2017, Ethan Tilling, a member of Australian white supremacist group Right Wing Resistance, traveled to Ukraine and fought for six months before returning to Australia. Tilling claims he is no longer associated with the far right. In 2016, a former member of the Royal Australian Air Force Jared Bennet was inspired by social media to join Ukraine’s radical ultranationalist Right Sector. (Sources: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

On March 15, 2019, gunman Brenton Tarrant, an Australian citizen, killed 51 and wounded dozens of others in attacks at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Tarrant livestreamed the attack on Facebook Live. He has been detained in New Zealand’s only maximum-security prison in Auckland. He faced a total of 90 charges for murder, attempted murder, and engaging in a terrorist act. On March 25, 2020, Tarrant pleaded guilty in the murder of 51 people and the attempted murder of 40 others. On August 27, 2020, Tarrant was sentenced to life in prison without parole. (Sources: Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera, New York Times, BBC News, New York Times)

On May 4, 2022, New Zealand Coroner Brigitte Windley announced the topics she would pursue in a coronial inquest into the Christchurch attacks. The inquest, which was launched in October 2021 by New Zealand’s Chief Coroner, Judge Deborah Marshall, will reportedly examine what role social media played in radicalizing Tarrant, if he acted alone, how he obtained a firearms license and if the method of procuring weapons could be directly linked to the attack, and how emergency services responded to the attack. (Sources: Guardian, 7 News)

Tarrant is believed to have financial ties to far-right groups in Europe, including the anti-immigrant Identitarian Movement. In September 2017, Tarrant reportedly donated 1,000 euros to the French branch of the Identitarian Movement. In early 2018, he donated $1,700 to the Austrian Identitatrian Movement. Before carrying out the attacks, Tarrant disseminated his manifesto in which he promoted a white nationalist theory called the Great Replacement, which posits that non-white migrants are threatening to replace the dominant European—i.e., white—culture. (Sources: Washington Post, Counter Extremism Project, The Conversation)

In September 2020, ASIO revealed that up to 40 percent of the agency’s counterterrorism caseload was comprised of far-right violent extremism cases. The following month, a study by the state government of New South Wales noted the influence of American populist politics on far-right narratives in Australia. Researchers found right-wing extremist use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Gab, as well as 4chan and 8chan message boards. (Sources: Sydney Morning Herald, Guardian, Guardian)

Meat Grinder Bomb Plot

On July 15, 2017, two Lebanese brothers, Khaled and Mahmoud Khayat, attempted to sneak an improvised explosive device (IED) hidden in a meat grinder onto an Etihad passenger plane. A third brother, Amer, had been scheduled to take the flight departing from Sydney and destined for Beirut via Abu Dhabi. Khaled and Mahmoud planned to have Amer unknowingly carry the device onto his flight, which would then explode in mid-air. However, Amer’s luggage exceeded the airline’s baggage limit and Khaled removed the IED, abandoning the plot. Two weeks later, Israeli intelligence authorities alerted Australian authorities to the aborted plan, prompting Australian police to arrest Khaled and Mahmoud in Sydney. According to Australian Federal Police, the two men were directed by a senior member of ISIS. (Sources: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

At the time, a fourth brother named Tarek was an ISIS commander in Syria, according to Lebanon’s interior minister. Tarek used an encrypted mobile messaging application to send instructions and bomb-making videos to Khaled and Mahmoud. In December 2019, the two brothers who built the device were found guilty in Australian court of conspiring to plan a terrorist act. Khaled received 40 years in prison and Mahmoud was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Tarek was captured in Iraq in April 2018 and has been sentenced to the death penalty, but was issued a reprieve because he has lung cancer. Amer, who was arrested upon landing in Lebanon and spent two and a half years in prison in Beirut, has been cleared of all charges and is estranged from his brothers. (Sources: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Parramatta Police Shooting

On October 2, 2015, 15-year-old Iranian immigrant Farhad Jabar shot and killed Curtis Cheng, a police finance worker who was leaving work at the main police station in the western Sydney suburb of Parramatta. Police shot and killed Jabar following the attack. Jabar was born in Iran and moved to Australia with his family as a child. Police were uncertain of Jabar’s motives, but they suspected Cheng’s murder was politically motivated and therefore linked to terrorism. On October 7, 200 police officers searched homes in Parramatta and arrested four men believed to be connected to the shooting. Police arrested 18-year-old Raban Alou and 22-year-old Talal Alameddine in the days following the attack on suspicions that the two men armed Jabar and helped him prepare. (Sources: Associated Press, New York Times, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Australian media reported that Islamist advocacy group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) may have radicalized Jabar. HT denied the accusation and condemned the shooting as “wrong,” but blamed “Western foreign and domestic policy” for extremist violence. Australian media alleged that Jabar used the pseudonym “Abu Zaid” to communicate with ISIS fighters over Facebook. Jabar had also reportedly been in contact over Twitter with Australian ISIS recruiter Neil Prakash. According to media reports, Prakash radicalized Jabar over a period of several months. New South Wales police denied the link between Prakash and Jabar. (Sources: Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Mail)

Sydney Hostage Crisis

On December 15, 2014, Man Haron Monis took 17 people hostage in Sydney’s Lindt Chocolate Café. He forced some of the hostages to hold up a black-and-white Islamist flag in the café’s window. Authorities said the flag had the shahada, the Muslim testimony of faith, imprinted on it. Commandos stormed the cafe after a 16-hour standoff, resulting in the deaths of Monis and two hostages. (Sources: CNN, ABC News)

Monis was an Iranian refugee who received asylum in 1996. His original name was Manteghi Bourjerdi. Monis was a self-proclaimed Islamic cleric who described himself as a Shiite Muslim who had converted to Sunni Islam. The local Muslim community considered him unstable, however, and had disavowed him. Authorities convicted Monis in 2009 of sending offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers who died serving in Afghanistan. At the time of the café siege, Monis was out on bail for being an accessory to his ex-wife’s November 2013 murder. He also faced more than 40 sexual and indecent assault charges stemming from a 2002 incident involving a Sydney woman. Monis’s former attorney, Manny Conditsis, called him “a damaged goods individual who has done something outrageous.” (Sources: BBC News, BBC News, New York Times, Sydney Morning Herald)

September 2014 ISIS Plot to Behead Australians

About 800 officers conducted a massive overnight manhunt in Sydney and Brisbane on September 17 and 18, 2014, in response to intelligence about a plot to kill non-Muslims. Police charged 15 people with conspiring to commit a terrorist act with senior Australian ISIS militant Mohammad Ali Baryalei. Fourteen ISIS recruits were reportedly ready to leave Australia for Syria. Baryalei instructed them to instead stay, kidnap people off the street, and videotape their beheadings for propaganda. Authorities believe Baryalei died fighting for ISIS in October 2014. The fifteenth member of the group was 22-year-old Omarjan Azari, whom police charged later in the year for sending thousands of dollars to ISIS. (Sources: Time, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Daily Telegraph)

Anti-Turkish Terrorism

Australia was also the setting for Armenian anti-Turkish terrorist activities in the 1980s. In December 1980, members of the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide killed the Turkish consul general, Sarik Ariyak, and his bodyguard in Sydney. Police stopped two other attacks that month. On November 23, 1986, a car bomb exploded in the basement parking lot of Melbourne’s Turkish consulate. Only one of the bombers, Hagob Levonian, was killed. Co-bomber Armenian-Australian Levon Demirian received a 10-year sentence for conspiracy. (Sources:, Turkish Consulate General)

Hilton Hotel Attack

Australia’s first terrorist attack occurred on February 13, 1978. A bomb planted in a garbage truck exploded at Sydney’s Hilton Hotel where Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and 11 foreign leaders were staying for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Two garbage collectors and a police officer were killed and many more were wounded. Investigators tied the attack to the Australian branch of religious sect Ananda Marga. The sect had been leading international protests against the Indian government for imprisoning its spiritual leader, Pabhat Ranian Sarkar, for murder. Ananda Marga was later cleared of the bombing and the perpetrators have not been caught. The attack spurred Australia to create its first counter-terrorist assault force in 1979. (Sources: Herald Sun, Sydney Morning Herald)

Since September 2014, Australia’s security threat level has been listed as “probable,” indicating intelligence alluding to the intention and capability to carry out a terrorist attack in the country. According to Australia’s security agency, the ASIO, the most likely form of attack in Australia is an individual or group using simple, low-cost methods such as a knife, firearms, or vehicle ramming. Between the end of 2017 and late 2018, the ASIO resolved or investigated more than 14,000 counterterrorism leads, according to the agency’s 2017-2018 report to parliament in October 2018. The agency investigated more than 400 terrorism cases between the end of 2014 and late 2015, according to the agency’s October 2015 report. The Australian government has noted that the global COVID-19 pandemic has created social and economic challenges around the world, but it has not greatly diminished the threat of terrorism. (Sources: ASIO, ASIO, Australian National Security)

Australia’s government sought to increase counterterrorism and counter-extremism measures following the December 2014 Sydney café hostage crisis. In July 2017, Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull called on Internet providers to block extremist content and comply with government requests for encrypted information in an effort to combat extremism. Turnbull said in October 2015 that anyone who cannot abide by Australia’s core value of “mutual respect” is free to leave the country. During a meeting with security chiefs that month, Turnbull said it is “absolutely critical” for security and government officials to engage with Australia’s Muslim community to prevent radicalization. (Sources: Bloomberg,, BBC News)

On December 9, 2020, Australia’s Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security launched a review into extremist movements and radicalism in Australia. In a letter to the committee, the Australian Minster for Home Affairs Peter Dutton charged the inquiry with assessing the threat posed by radical movements and individuals in the country, “including, but not limited to, Islamist and far right-wing extremist groups, and how these have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic,” as well as these groups’ ties to international extremist organizations. The inquiry will also include assessment on “the role of social media, encrypted communications platforms and the dark web in allowing extremists to communicate and organize.” (Sources: Parliament of Australia, Minister of Home Affairs)

On March 17, 2021, ASIO Director General Mike Burgess announced the organization would cease referring to “Islamic extremism” and “right-wing extremism” and instead refer to broader categories of “ideologically motivated violent extremism” and “religiously motivated violent extremism.” According to Burgess, the shift is due to the ASIO investigating people based on the threat of violence, rather than solely because of their political views, and the need to include people affiliated with groups “outside the traditional categories,” such as the incel movement—the violent misogynistic movement of the involuntarily celibate. (Source: Guardian)

Legislation and Financing

The Australian government made significant investments in its countering violent extremism (CVE) infrastructure in 2022. According to Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, as of March 2022, 144 people have been charged in 71 counterterrorism related operations around Australia since 2014 while 18 convicted terrorists were due for release within the next four years. That February, the government announced a $61.7 million investment into CVE programs. Of the total sum, $24.5 million would go toward expanding intervention programs into rural and regional areas. The government allocated $13.8 million toward the creation of a national program to rehabilitate and reintegrate violent extremists in custody. Another $8 million was allocated to the creation of an international Centre of Excellence for CVE Research, Risk Assessment and Training, as well as a new $10.7 million CVE Community Grants Program. The remaining $4.7 million was allocated toward strengthening strategic communication programs that rebut extremist narratives and provide positive, alternative stories about life in Australia. In March 2022, the Australian government announced a new counterterrorism strategy with a further investment of $86.7 million. The strategy allocated $19.8 million for the creation of a High Risk Terrorist Offender Registry, to be designed in consultation with states and territories, that would impose long-term reporting obligations on all Commonwealth terrorist offenders after the end of their custodial sentences. The government allocated the remaining $66.9 million toward continued support for the High Risk Terrorist Offender regime, and the implementation of the Extended Supervision Order framework to protect Australians from high-risk terrorist offenders who cannot be deradicalized. The new registry will specifically target and impose reporting conditions on high-risk terrorists who are due for release and have shown no signs of reformation. (Sources: Australian Home Affairs, Australian Home Affairs, Channel 7 News)

Following the March 15, 2019, terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, Australia’s government passed the “Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material” bill on April 4, 2019. The legislation seeks to hold social media companies responsible for the content on their platforms, threatening to fine companies up to 10 percent of their annual profit and jailing executives for up to three years for failing to “expeditiously” remove illegal content. The bill also creates a regime for the eSafety Commissioner to notify tech companies that they are hosting abhorrent violent material, triggering an obligation to remove such content. In February 2020, the director general of the ASIO said that online messaging applications were used in nine out of 10 priority counterterrorism cases in the country. On March 24, 2020, it was reported that Australia’s eSafety commissioner will now be allowed to order Internet providers to block websites hosting terrorist content. Following the March 2019 Christchurch shootings in New Zealand—where the Australian-born shooter livestreamed the attack on Facebook—Australia did not have any legal basis to prevent the dissemination of extremist content online. To be eligible for blocking, the websites must feature content that promotes or incites acts of terrorism or violent crimes. (Sources: Guardian, New York Times, Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald)

In mid-July 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull proposed to increase the military’s ability to address domestic terror incidents. Turnbull hopes to create a more flexible and effective response force to any future terror attack in Australia by removing a provision which prohibited military involvement in attacks until the police requested assistance. (Source: Al Jazeera)

In December 2016, Turnbull approved a new law permitting authorities to extend the prison sentences of convicted terrorists at the end of their prison terms. Turnbull justified the law because 55 people had been accused of terrorism since 2014. A court order is required to extend the sentence. A parliamentary committee would review the new law after six years. (Source: Associated Press)

In July 2016, Australian law enforcement and information agencies were combined into the new Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) in an effort to increase counter-extremism cooperation. (Source: U.S. Department of State)

In September 2015, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott proposed new hate speech legislation prohibiting speech deemed “advocacy to genocide.” The law would provide prison sentences of up to seven years for offenders who publicly “counsel, promote, encourage or urge” genocide. According to Attorney General George Brandis, the proposed law is aimed at groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir, which Abbott had unsuccessfully called to be banned. The government introduced the law in parliament on November 12, 2015. (Sources: Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Australian Jewish News)

Following the October 2015 shooting of a police accountant by a 15-year-old Iranian-Australian, the government began exploring lowering the minimum age a suspect can be subjected to control orders, and restrictions on movement and communications. The proposal would lower the minimum age from 16 to 14. While the legislation was under consideration prior to the shooting, Brandis said the shooting demonstrated the need to lower the age for restrictions. (Sources: Australian Attorney General's Office, New York Times)

In May 2015, the Abbott government unveiled a $1.2 billion security package to combat extremism and prevent Australians from joining foreign conflicts. The package allocated $450 million “to strengthen intelligence capabilities and to counter extremist messaging.” Another $131 million was designated to help telephone and Internet companies adjust to new data retention laws. The package also included $296 million for intelligence agencies to upgrade their information technology systems. The government also set aside $22 million to fight online extremist propaganda. Another $750 million was apportioned to expand Australia’s Middle East military operations including in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Sources: Guardian, Business Insider Australia)

Abbott announced a series of tougher counterterrorism measures in February 2015. The “threshold for action” against Lindt Café gunman Man Haron Monis had been “set too high,” according to Abbott, who said Monis should never have been admitted to Australia or released on bail in his ex-wife’s murder case. Abbott promised Australia would no longer allow its “enemies to exploit our decency.” (Sources: Financial Times, Reuters, BBC News, Associated Press)

In May 2015, the Abbott government unveiled a $1.2 billion security package to combat extremism and prevent Australians from joining foreign conflicts.

Abbott’s plan called for suspending or revoking the citizenship of dual citizens involved in terrorism, and suspending welfare, overseas travel, and other privileges of Australian citizens involved in terrorism. Authorities would also restrict hate speech by religious preachers. A new counterterrorism coordinator would oversee programs to promote Australian values and counter extremist propaganda. The Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security made a series of recommendations regarding the package in early November 2015. The Cabinet approved the recommendations. Parliament passed the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill that December. The new legislation allows the government to automatically strip dual nationals of Australian citizenship if they are involved in terrorism abroad. The government would also be able to strip the citizenship of dual citizens who have been convicted of engaging in terrorism abroad within 10 years of the law’s passage. The legislation also allows Australia to strip citizenship from dual nations convicted of terrorism in Australia. But in March 2017, Australian lawmakers warned that only one foreign fighter had to-date lost his Australian citizenship, and loopholes within Australian law still allowed Australian foreign fighters to return to the country. (Sources: Financial Times, Reuters, BBC News, Associated Press, Sydney Morning Herald, Agence France-Presse, Daily Telegraph)

In December 2014, the government passed a $630 million funding increase over a four-year period for police and security agencies to combat terrorism. This plan is separate to the May 2015 security package. (Source: Guardian)

In late 2014, the Parliament passed the Foreign Fighters Bill, which canceled welfare payments to people involved in terrorism and expanded security agencies’ powers to combat extremism. The bill expanded the Australian Secret Intelligence Service’s abilities to support the Australian Defence Force in military operations. It also expanded legal authority to act against people suspected of funding, enabling, or supporting terrorism. A key component that stirred debate in the country was a provision that made it illegal for citizens to travel to areas deemed to be combat zones. (Sources: United Nations, Reuters, Parliament of Australia, Australian Attorney General’s Office, Australian)

Australia instituted a ban on travel to conflict zones in December 2014. The government barred its citizens from traveling to the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, that month, and followed up in March 2015 by restricting travel to Mosul, Iraq. (Sources: Reuters, Reuters)

Australian law allows the government to revoke citizenship of people if they maintain citizenship in another country and would not be left stateless. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has warned that the revocation of citizenship of terrorism suspects outside the country will not eliminate the threat they pose Australian interests abroad and may unintentionally increase the threat. The ASIO has cautioned the government that the retention of citizenship may be a better option to allow Australian authorities to pursue charges against terror suspects abroad. The Australian government has revoked the citizenship of at least 13 dual citizens, including ISIS foreign fighter Neil Prakash. On November 25, 2020, jailed Algerian-born Islamist cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika became the first Australian to lose his citizenship while still residing in the country. (Sources: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, BBC News, BBC News)

The prime minister announced a $64 million counter-extremism package in August 2014. The package included $32.7 million for a new multi-agency effort to monitor and disrupt foreign fighters and their supporters. It also included $13.4 million for counter-radicalization community engagement programs. Another $6.2 million would go toward creating a new federal police team to target returning foreign fighters. (Source: Sky News)

Australia’s Criminal Code Act of 1995 defines terrorism and terrorism offenses. The law has since been updated to expand the definition and widen government powers to combat terrorism. The law bars advocating violence against the constitution, individuals, and groups, as well as genocide. The act imposes life in prison as a penalty for committing a terrorist act. In 2002, Australia created its designation list of terrorist organizations when the government added multiple terrorism offenses to the Criminal Code Act 1995. Australia’s list of designated terrorist entities includes 28 groups such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hezbollah’s external security organization. Australia initially designated only Hamas’s military wing in 2003. In October 2021, Australia’s Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security recommended designating Hamas in its entirety. Australia designated Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist organization on March 4, 2022. On November 23, 2021, Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews announced the government’s intention to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. That year, Australia also expanded its terrorism list to include the far right. On March 22, 2021, Australia designated the U.K.-based Sonnenkrieg Division (SKD) as a terrorist entity. SKD is a European offshoot of the defunct U.S.-based neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division (AWD). It was the first time Australia designated a far-right group on its terrorism list. According to Australian then-Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, SKD’s designation reflected the government’s commitment to stamping out violence and extremism of all kinds, regardless of ideology or motivation. Prior to the designation, Australia was the only country in the Five Eyes Network not to have designated a far-right organization. In November 2021, Andrews announced the government would also designate the international far-right network The Base. On February 17, 2022, Australia designated the National Socialist Order, a U.S.-based AWD successor group. (Sources: Government of Australia, Australian National Security, Associated Press, BBC News, Times, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Reuters, Jerusalem PostAssociated Press, Reuters)

The 2005 Anti-Terrorism Act gave authorities wider powers to obtain information about and detain terrorism suspects.

Government Programs

The government launched the Countering Violent Extremism Unit within the Attorney General’s Department in August 2014 to work with local governments and communal organizations fight extremist influences and decrease the threat of radicalization. The Unit oversees several de-radicalization programs and works with local governments to rehabilitate those imprisoned for terrorism offenses.

One of the Unit’s initiatives is the Living Safe Together website. The site provides information on the radicalization process, counterterrorism laws, and how to report extremism. The Living Safe Together grant program allocated $1 million in 2014-15 for community-based non-government and local government programs—such as mentoring, counseling, and education programs—to counter violent extremism. (Source: Australian Attorney General’s Office)

The government announced $1.6 million in grants to 34 community organizations on May 1, 2015. The government increased its allocation by $600,000 due to the multitude of requests. Groups that received grants included an at-risk-youth mentorship program by a Curtin University de-radicalization expert, a formal qualification program for aspiring Muslim mentors by the Australian Muslim Women’s Association, and soccer clinics run by Football United to help youth develop social skills and feel part of the community. (Source: Guardian)

Student Efforts to Counter Extremism

As part of the U.S. State Department’s “P2P: Challenging Extremism” competition, a team of students from Australia’s Curtin University developed an app called “52 JUMAA.” The free app allows users to create profiles and set goals for their personal and spiritual growth. The app provides users with weekly challenges to encourage them to connect with and give back to their communities. The app’s creators believe it can challenge the lure of extremist groups that capitalize on impressionable youth exploring Islam. (Source: WAtoday)

Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF)

Australia is a member of the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) is Australia’s financial intelligence agency. A 2015 FATF assessment found Australia’s AML/CTF policies to be a “mature regime” but nevertheless cited gaps in the country’s AML/CTF policies, including failures to adequately monitor non-profit organizations that might be used to fund terrorism. A July 2018 report by AUSTRAC and the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity found Australia’s AML/CTF legislation is “increasingly unfit for purpose in the face of emerging technology.” The report called for “effective legislation” to “respond to both current and future needs.” In response, a spokesperson for the Australian Home Affairs department told the Australian that the country’s terrorism financing legislation has fully complied with international standards since the 2015 assessment. (Sources: FATF, FATF, Australian)

Australia has participated in several overseas military campaigns to curb extremism, including the fight against ISIS, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and U.N. peacekeeping missions. In May 2015, the government allocated $750 million in its 2015 budget to expand Australia’s Middle East operations. (Source: Business Insider Australia)

Australia is also part of the Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council, an intelligence-sharing alliance that also includes Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The alliance dates to an intelligence-sharing agreement between the United States and United Kingdom at the end of World War II, which was formalized with the 1946 United Kingdom – United States of America Agreement (UKUSA). The agreement expanded to include Canada in 1948, and Australia and New Zealand in 1956. (Sources: U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Guardian)

ISIS and Syria

Australia was one of the first countries to volunteer military support to the U.S.-led international coalition against ISIS. It launched its first combat mission on October 5, 2014. According to Chief of Joint Operations Vice Admiral David Johnston, Australian planes flew over Iraq dozens of times in 2014 and dropped bombs at least twice in raids that killed “multiple” members of ISIS. In October 2014, Australian personnel destroyed an ISIS facility in Iraq, killing several members. Australia has taken on a larger load of missions in Iraq to allow the U.S. and other coalition members to focus on Syria. (Sources: Guardian,

Australia was one of the first countries to volunteer military support to the U.S.-led international coalition against ISIS.

As a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, the Pacific Island Forum, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Australian authorities also work with other Southeast Asian countries to further develop and strengthen anti-ISIS operations in the region. Most recently, Australia sent two P3 Orion reconnaissance planes to assist in the Philippines’ operation to retake the city of Marawi from the ISIS-affiliate Abu Sayyaf Group. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, Sky News)

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called for a political solution to the crises in Iraq and Syria. As of November 2015, Australia has agreed to accept 12,000 Syrian refugees. (Source: Herald Sun)


About 2,000 Australian troops participated in the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein. On April 12, 2003, Australia launched Operation Baghdad Assist to provide medical supplies and other humanitarian support. On July 16, 2003, Australia launched Operation Catalyst to assist in Iraq’s reconstruction. The bulk of Australia’s forces left Iraq in 2008. (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)

In May 2015, the Australian government designated $382 million for its continued involvement with the international coalition in Iraq. As part of the international Building Partner Capacity (BPC) mission, Australia sent a contingent of 300 personnel in early May to train and rebuild Iraqi security forces. Australia’s commitment to the BPC force is expected to last two years. (Sources: Business Insider Australia, Prime Minister of Australia)


Australia openly supported U.S. action in Afghanistan and contributed troops to the U.S.-led coalition in late 2001. Australia withdrew its forces in December 2002 but redeployed in 2005.  Australia contributed 1,550 troops to the coalition at the height of its participation in 2009. Australia withdrew its last troops in December 2013. (Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

U.N. Peacekeeping Missions

Australia joined the first U.N. peacekeeping mission in Indonesia in 1947. Australians have since commanded six multinational forces. Australian helicopters participated in peacekeeping operations in the Sinai in the 1970s and ’80s. The country also participated in missions in Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Iraq during the first Gulf War, Somalia, and Rwanda. Australia continues to participate in international peacekeeping operations. As of 2021, Australia participated in the U.N. Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in the Middle East, and the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Australia is the 11th largest financial contributor to the U.N. peacekeeping budget. (Sources: Returned Services League Australia, Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

Turnbull has raised the possibility of Australians acting as peacekeeping troops in Syria. He also said Syrians were more likely to accept peacekeepers who come from within the region. Separately, in 2019 Australia announced it would send troops to participate in the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights on the Syria-Israel border. UNDOF has monitored the fragile truce between the two countries since 1974. (Sources: Herald Sun, SBS News)

International Aid

Australia maintains a robust international aid program that the government uses to aid recipients’ abilities to fight domestic extremism, as well as to enhance their infrastructure. In the 2018-19 fiscal year, Australia allocated $4.2 billion (Australian) between five regions: the Pacific ($1.3 billion), Southeast and East Asia ($1 billion), South and West Asia ($284.8 million), and the Middle East and Africa ($258.5 million), and Latin America and the Caribbean ($5.9 million). The government views international aid as beneficial to the country’s own national interests by contributing to the sustainable economic development and poverty reduction. (Sources: Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

In its 2018-19 allocation, Australia’s development assistance to the Pacific region included a $17.5 million allocation toward the creation of a new Australia Pacific Security College to provide security and law enforcement training for officials from across the Pacific Island region. In South and Southwest Asia, Australian aid is targeting violent extremism. In Bangladesh, Australia is providing assistance on countering terror financing. Additionally, the Australian Awards scholarship program promotes counter-radicalization through social media, according to the Australian government. In Pakistan, Australia funds the Radio Campaign for Women’s Empowerment in order to support the role of women in countering violent extremism. Australia also contributes to Sri Lanka’s Indo-Pacific Justice and Security Program, which is aimed at strengthening responses to transnational crime and violent extremism. (Source: Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

A 2020 poll by Australia’s Lowy Institute found only 50 percent of Australians either feel safe or very safe when thinking about world events. That number represented a record low for the poll and a significant decrease from 78 percent in 2018 and 92 percent in 2015. According to the Lowy Institute, 46 percent of Australians viewed international terrorism as a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests over the next 10 years, while 48 percent viewed it as important but not a critical threat. The majority of Australians instead viewed drought and water shortages (77 percent) and Covid-19 and other potential pandemics (76 percent) as the most critical threats facing the country. According to the poll, 37 percent viewed Iran’s nuclear program as a critical threat, while 50 percent called it important but not critical. The poll found 80 percent agreed that Australia’s intelligence agencies were effective at protecting Australia’s national security. The annual Lowy Institute survey polled 2,448 Australian adults in March 2020. (Sources: Lowy Institute, Lowy Institute)

An October 2016 poll on attitudes toward national security found that 45 percent of Australians were either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about either themselves or a family member being the victim of a terrorist attack in Australia, and 56 percent believe the government could do more to prevent terrorism. The Australian National University (ANU) poll also found that 71 percent of Australians are concerned about increasing Islamic extremism in Australia, but 70 percent also believe that Muslims in Australia should not be subject to additional scrutiny because of their religion. (Sources: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian National University, Australian National University)

Regarding foreign fighters, the ANU poll found that 69 percent of Australians believed the government should prevent citizens from participating in foreign conflicts, and 85 percent supported canceling the citizenship of dual nationals involved in terrorist activities abroad. (Sources: Australian National University, Australian National University)

A November 2015 poll found that three out of four Australians believe a large-scale terror attack is likely in the country, while one out of four Australians believe such an attack is inevitable. Earlier in the year, the Lowy Institute’s 2015 national poll recorded the lowest percentage of Australians who feel safe in the country in the poll’s 11-year history. Sixty-nine percent of Australians view ISIS as a “high risk” to Australia’s security. Australians also viewed terrorist attacks on Australians overseas (55 percent) and homegrown terrorism in Australia (53 percent) as high risks to Australia. A majority (69 percent) of Australians support Australian military action in Iraq, but only 20 percent believe it will make Australia safer from future terrorism. (Sources: Guardian, Lowy Institute)

The Australian Muslim community has reportedly dealt with growing feelings of disenfranchisement over the years. A 2014 poll on immigration and social cohesion found that one in four Australians negatively view Muslims. Muslim leaders condemned the December 2014 Sydney café siege but said they felt targeted by prevailing anti-Muslim attitudes that blame the entire Muslim community for extremists’ acts. (Sources: Sydney Morning Herald, New York Times)

During a protest on September 18, 2014, Muslim community members said they had been terrified during massive anti-terror raids earlier that month. Protesters accused then-Prime Minister Abbott’s government of politicizing the security situation. The president of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, Keysar Trad, blamed the government’s “negative campaigns” against building new mosques for helping to radicalize Australian youth. (Sources: Daily Mail,

Senior Islamic leaders met with the attorney general to discuss homegrown extremism in July 2014. They promised to do what they can to prevent young Muslim Australians from traveling abroad to fight with extremist groups. (Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

A 2012 study linked radicalization with increased workplace discrimination since the September 11, 2001, and 2002 Bali attacks. The study found that the unemployment rate among Muslim men in Australia is more than double the national average. The survey found that 58 percent of Muslims earned less than $400 per week compared to 41 percent of the Australian population. The Muslim community said it felt alienated after the 2005 passage of Australia’s Anti-Terrorism Act. (Sources: Australian, The Age)

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