Teachers, students and parents will receive more support to recognise the warning signs of radicalisation and provide appropriate support to at-risk youth in their school communities.
The new measures follow the Review of Initiatives Supporting Youth at Risk of Radicalisation commissioned in May 2015 and the Government’s commitment to provide additional support to schools, families, youth and communities impacted by violent extremism at the December 2015 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting.
Minister Birmingham said initiatives currently being developed include providing school staff with awareness training and clear referral pathways to seek help in responding to concerning student behaviour. This training will be based on research undertaken by Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre which also underpins existing community awareness training being delivered by the Australian Multicultural Foundation.
“A series of local community youth forums will also be held by the Commonwealth Department of Education in partnership with the States and Territories early this year to provide young people with the opportunity to explore this complex problem and consider how we can work together to help reduce marginalisation and further support young people,” Minister Birmingham said.
The new schools initiative will include three key support measures:
providing awareness training for relevant school staff on understanding radicalisation to violent extremism, appropriate support and referral pathways;
classroom resources designed to build students’ resilience to violent extremist influences; and
mechanisms for school communities and parents to receive and share information and good practice approaches to this issue.
Minister Birmingham said the Review highlighted the importance of ensuring that initiatives to support schools are locally focussed and any expectations placed on school staff should be reasonable, particularly as their primary role must remain on delivering the curriculum.
“That is why we are closely working with states and territories, with schools and in partnership with families and local authorities to help reduce marginalisation and build students’ resilience to radicalisation and violent extremism,” Minister Birmingham said.
Minister Keenan said Australia is a world leader in countering violent extremism, but emphasised that we must continue to explore innovative and creative solutions to this complex problem.
“Sadly, we have already seen a disturbing trend of not only more Australians, but increasingly, younger Australians subscribing to terrorist ideologies, with tragic consequences,” Minister Keenan said.
“It is a complex issue requiring cooperative efforts between governments and communities, schools, parents and families, as they are the front line of defence against radicalisation and threats to social cohesion.
“Those who work with our young people are best placed to identify changes in behaviour and to intervene early to prevent our youth from going down the wrong path, before a law enforcement response is required.
“This is about harm prevention – we have a responsibility to safeguard vulnerable Australians from terrorist groups and from putting themselves or others at risk.”