Message from the Chief Commissioner

State Security and Terrorism

Release date: Tue 5 September 2017

Last updated: Tue 5 September 2017



What is terrorism?

When we hear the word terrorism, we generally think of a person or a group of people using or threatening to use violence against others to achieve their own political or religious advantage. More recently the violence used involves guns or bombs or other weapons designed to kill or hurt a number of people at one time.

A 'terrorist act' is defined under Australian law as:

an act or threat, intended to advance a political, ideological or religious cause by coercing or intimidating an Australian or foreign government or the public. This action must cause serious harm to people or property, create a serious risk to the health and safety to the public, or seriously disrupt trade, critical infrastructure or electronic systems.

Criminal Code Act 1995 (Commonwealth)

A 'terrorist incident' is a combination of circumstances or conditions which may lead to or result from a terrorist act, and which require preventative and/or responsive action.

Find out more about what amounts to a terrorist act on the Australian Government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

Terrorism law in Australia

When terrorist incidents have occurred throughout history, existing law was used to deal with the offenders after the event. Given the increase in the number and seriousness of terrorist incidents around the world, Australia has now developed specific laws to prevent terrorist attacks and deal appropriately with those involved in terrorism.

The nature of terrorism means its implications may cross jurisdictional boundaries. This, and the range of preventative measures and capabilities that may be required, necessitates that Australia maintain a national, cooperative approach to counter terrorism.

The Commonwealth has enacted specific anti-terrorism laws which can be found in the Criminal Code Act and Regulations 1995 (Commonwealth) at Part 5.3 Division 100 onwards. Criminal offences covering terrorism are primarily dealt with under the Commonwealth Criminal Code, which is intended to be comprehensive and uniform across Australia. Victoria enacted the Terrorism (Community Protect) Act 2003 (the Act) to cover those areas where Victoria continued to have legislative responsibility.

More information about Commonwealth terrorism legislation can be found on the Australian National Security website.

Terrorist organisations

What defines a terrorism organisation is explained in Commonwealth legislation.

A terrorist organisation is an organisation that:

  • a court finds is directly or indirectly engaged in preparing, planning, assisting or fostering the doing of a terrorist act; or
  • the government has listed as a terrorist organisation by regulations.

More information about the listing of terrorist organisations and related legislation is available on the Australian National Security website.

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