Project Overview

The Monash Radicalisation Project examines how multiple factors lead individuals to become radicalised and conduct terrorist acts. Our approach integrates a mix of political, social and psychological insights to forge a multidisciplinary model of radicalisation, counter-radicalisation and de-radicalisation, focusing on the Australian context.

Our findings will facilitate better counter-terrorism policy-making and practice by generating insights into the unique processes of radicalisation in Australia and identifying potential counter-measures. The project will generate new understandings of radicalisation that will be of benefit to scholarly, policing, policy-making and prison system counter terrorism stakeholders.

This four year Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage project represents the most significant and detailed examination of radicalisation in Australia and involves a partnership of Monash University, Victoria Police, the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, Corrections Victoria, and the Australian Federal Police. This project is also the largest Linkage Project ever won by Monash University’s Faculty of Arts and is being led by the Global Terrorism Research Centre (GTReC).

What is radicalisation?

Counter-terrorism practitioners maintain that greater understanding of radicalisation is needed as a basis for better strategies to counter extremist activity, identify opportunities to intervene before violence occurs, and complement police and intelligence capabilities to counter the terrorist threats.

Radicalisation is the process by which an individual or group can become willing to perpetrate acts of political violence, including terrorism. Counter-radicalisation is about curbing the desire or motivation to engage in violence, while de-radicalisation is about reforming individuals who have carried out, or have become willing to carry out, acts of political violence.

More precisely, we define radicalisation as a process in which individuals develop, adopt and embrace political attitudes and modes of behaviour that diverge substantially from the norms and laws of mainstream society.

Counter-radicalisation involves measures and strategies designed to prevent radical views from transforming into criminal behaviour. Of course the right to hold personal views at odds with the mainstream is a cornerstone of democratic society and must be protected at all costs. The task of counter-radicalisation, however, is to prevent individuals from acting on those views in ways that transgress the law, endanger the community or unleash processes that could escalate social tensions.

Finally, de-radicalisation involves strategies designed to curb the violent inclinations of radical ideologies thereby enabling social re-integration. De-radicalisation is also intended to moderate a person’s views and actions so that they no longer pose a threat against people and property.

Why is it important?

The 2010 Commonwealth Government Counter-Terrorism White Paper emphasised the ongoing threat posed by self-styled ‘jihadist’ terrorism from Al Qaeda and associated or inspired groups. Furthermore, the White Paper noted that terrorism motivated by other beliefs also affects this nation and will continue to in the future.

Research on radicalisation is needed and must be, accurate and relevant to local circumstances if it is to underpin the development of better counter-radicalisation and de-radicalisation policies and practices.

This project’s findings will enhance the ability of scholars, counter-terrorism practitioners, and officers in the corrections system to understand, identify and respond to radicalisation in Australian communities. These findings will contribute to new insights into the forces that shape the evolution of radical and terrorist inclinations in Australia.

Stakeholders from the police to community leaders will therefore be better equipped to identify a variety of potentially dangerous patterns of behaviour at an early stage and to calibrate their responses accordingly. This early detection will strengthen the basis for building stronger partnerships between the police and community.

To avoid exacerbating inter-religious and inter-cultural tensions and safeguarding national security from within, counter-terrorism requires multi-pronged counter- and de-radicalisation strategies that incorporate legislation, positive community relations and robust intelligence collection. A sophisticated understanding of how local socio-political circumstances can incite discrete forms of radicalisation is also vital. This project will go a long way towards realising these goals.

What is our approach?

The Monash Radicalisation Project examines how multiple factors combine to motivate individuals to become radicalised and conduct terrorist acts. Our approach integrates a mix of political, social and psychological insights to forge a multidisciplinary model of how people can become terrorists, particularly in Australia.

In line with the 2010 Counter-Terrorism White Paper, the project focuses primarily on ‘jihadist’ terrorism, but also examines radicalisation driven by other ideologies. The project has a greater focus on Victoria than other states, but encompasses radicalisation throughout Australia.

The project will utilise entirely new primary source documents, interviews, control groups, a cross-national comparative empirical data study and a first-hand examination of potential radicalisation in Victoria’s prison system.

The project requires four years to complete and is divided into four Streams. These Streams and lines of inquiry will coalesce to produce one of the world’s most comprehensive and innovative research projects on radicalisation.

Our study will examine:

  • the relative influence of familial, community, national and international drivers of radicalisation in Australia;
  • the interplay between the social and psychological forces of radicalisation;
  • how this differs from overseas experiences, and
  • the challenges this poses to Australia’s counter-terrorism stake-holders in combating radicalisation, and developing appropriate counter and de-radicalisation measures.

How will our findings be used?

Concentrating on the unique drivers of extremism within Australia, the study will enhance counter terrorism stakeholders’ understanding of domestic radicalisation. This knowledge will assist in designing policies appropriate for Australian circumstances that can pre-empt, prevent and detect radicalisation without jeopardising social cohesion. It will also reduce Australia’s need to rely on overseas counter-radicalisation and de-radicalisation models, where practitioners confront different community dynamics.

Working towards understanding the causes of radicalisation in Australia – and throughout the world – the project will enhance national security and, by addressing local circumstances, is expected to uncover more cost-efficient counter terrorism practices.

Our project findings will be conveyed to the wider security and community sectors through academic publications, reports tabled at state and federal security forums, in-house training modules, public seminars and an annual research symposium. In these ways the project’s research findings will be widely distributed and will build capacity at all levels of Australian governance.