Countering Community Division Whole-of-Community Policy Framework

Dr Bryan Adams.

By Dr Brian Adams, Director of the Centre for Interfaith and Cultural Dialogue, Griffith University

Introduction Countering violent extremism in Australia is a difficult task, fraught with political, cultural and religious sensitivities exacerbated by social tensions and lack of understanding across various communities.

One unintended consequence of the desire to secure our nation has been to heighten these tensions and divisions in many communities across Australia.

The Whole-of-Community policy framework is presented as a way to facilitate broad analysis and deep understanding of the current situation and coordinate efforts across stakeholders so we can begin to reunite the divided and strengthen our communities to counteract further radicalisation.

Radicalisation is the progression of an individual towards more extreme views that may lead to violent fundamentalism, extremism or terrorism. This policy framework regards radicalisation of Australian citizens as “a community issue, not just a law enforcement one” (Safi 2015), because communities can influence how quickly and how far along the path of radicalisation a person travels by shaping external influence, social circumstance and individual agency (2008).

– Overcome community divisions
– Strengthen ability to counter radicalisation

Policy Framework
The Whole-of-Community policy approach is overseen by a governmental taskforce responsible for coordinating policy, analysis and evaluation, and planning.This taskforce may also include representatives of key community organisations and business interests.

The first area that may contribute to an individual’s radicalisation is that of external influences.

These are influences that “shape and constrain people’s environment” (2008: 16), but are only minimally influenced by the individual. External influences can be categorised into political, economic and cultural/religious influences.

– Overseas involvement of Australian troops and trade relationships
– Democratic participation
– Mass media and social media messages
– Relationship with government, judicial and police institutions (including representation)

– Economic and business environment and opportunities
– Housing
– Community services
– Educational opportunities

– Mass media
– Community integration
– Internal conflict (i.e. between radical and moderate streams of teachings)

The second area of community influence is social circumstance. The groups with which one identifies, the dynamics of one’s various networks, and the relative deprivation of one’s community can all play a role in furthering an individual down the radicalisation path.

– Group identity
– Network dynamics
– Relative deprivation

The final area of influence impacting a person’s path of radicalisation is individual agency. An individual makes certain choices that determine their personal progress towards extremism. These choices are informed by:

– Cognitive experiences; and
– Emotional experiences.

Countering violent extremism in Australia is challenging. In order to succeed, we have to overcome existing community tensions and divisions. The Whole-of Community policy framework is presented as a way to gather community insights and resources, facilitate in-depth analysis and understanding of the current situation, and coordinate efforts across stakeholders so that we can begin to reunite the divided and strengthen our communities to counteract further radicalisation.

Works Cited
(2008). Radicalisation, Recruitment and the EU Counter-radicalisation Strategy. Safi, M. (2015). Mike Baird’s Muslim engagement could work where Tony Abbott is failiing. The Guardian. online.

This article was first published on the Machinery of Government.