The question of why young Australians are seduced in increasing numbers by radical Islamic groups such as Islamic State will be investigated by a network of academics under a Victorian government anti-extremism initiative.
Researchers from leading institutions will study the allure of terrorist organisations and the sway they have on Australian teens through social media and “grooming” techniques.
The $4 million Social Cohesion and Multicultural Research Institute is also expected to look at the rise of new nationalist organisations such as Reclaim Australia.
Other research expected to be undertaken would be on social cohesion as a way to prevent radicalisation and extremism.
Government estimates suggest more than 100 Australians are in the Middle East fighting with Islamic State. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, speaking in the wake of recent arrests of young Australians for terror offences, has recently conceded that the government and the community have a poor understanding of the reasons people are attracted to groups such as Islamic State. “We have to acknowledge that we don’t fully understand why so many people are being drawn into this web,’’ he said last month following the arrest of five teenagers in Melbourne over an alleged Anzac Day terror plot.
In the budget last month, the government allocated $25m to countering violent extremism and fostering greater community resilience. The institute is one of the first initiatives to be funded under that allocation.
Multicultural Affairs Minister Robin Scott said the government wanted to work with groups to tackle extremism and other issues. “The interim board members are experts in their fields and have made considerable contributions to social cohesion and community resilience,” he said. “We don’t have all the answers, but this institute will build on the evidence base to support policies aimed at reducing the possibility of young Victorians being radicalised.”
The government wants the institute to operate as a network of academics at various institutions, so it won’t be based at any particular university. Its interim board will be chaired by Mark Duckworth, chief resilience officer at Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet.