VicPol Corporate

Victoria Police has identified a number of key issues which over the next four years are likely to continue to exert an important influence over the local threat environment, and around which we will concentrate our activities.

Key issue 1: Individuals radicalising to violence

The threat from religiously and ideologically motivated violent extremist groups and individuals continues to influence the Victorian security environment, particularly through the endurance of master narratives and underpinning ideologies.

Despite the demise of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's (ISIL) Caliphate in the Middle East, violent Islamist narratives from groups including ISIL and al Qaeda continue to resonate with individuals globally, including within Victoria, propagating an ‘us versus them’ worldview.

Similarly, Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremism (IMVE) propaganda and activities can be equally divisive, reinforcing perceptions of the existence of an ‘out group’ against which violence can be used.

Beyond IMVE and Religiously Motivated Violent Extremism (RMVE), the COVID-19 pandemic has also enlivened a variety of issue motivated groups and individuals, creating opportunities for further polarisation and the spread of conspiracy theories.

The radicalisation of youth is also of growing concern to Victoria Police and our law enforcement and intelligence partners.

The number of children at risk of radicalisation to violence, including those being exposed to extremist material and ideas, has increased.

Due to a number of local and international circumstances, this development is also a manifestation of youth vulnerability in general given that this cohort is in a period of identity formation and is more susceptible to external influences.

Identifying individuals at risk of radicalisation to violence within this environment has become increasingly challenging for law enforcement.

Behaviours that may indicate the transition toward violence can be complex, occur within short timeframes, and occasionally even appear in conflict with individuals’ ideological or religious views.

Interpreting indicators can be further complicated by a range of personal factors and circumstances, including mental health issues and drug use.

    • Persons of interest (POI) assessed as representing a terrorist or violent extremist threat are managed through the Counter Terrorism Command’s (CTC) POI management process.

      This process treats all POIs as a CTC-wide responsibility, thereby providing Victoria Police the capacity to manage these individuals holistically and in a manner that reflects their highly idiosyncratic circumstances and needs.

      This end-to-end approach to POI management includes the ongoing monitoring of individuals who were previously the subject of investigative attention, but who may re-emerge as potential threats.

      This represents an acknowledgment that many of the ideological views to which POIs adhere can be highly durable, with the result that they may re-engage in concerning behaviour.
    • Victoria Police understand that the process and circumstances under which individuals are radicalised to violence are complex and subject to change in response to a range of domestic and international conditions.

      It is therefore critical that we regularly reassess our understanding of how people are radicalised to violence to ensure that we are able to identify individuals of concern, and that our actions are directly aligned with the threat.

      With this goal in mind, we have entered a partnership with the Applied Security Science Partnership (ASSP), a research group that also includes Victoria University and the Defence Science and Technology Group.

      Victoria Police’s involvement with the ASSP is centred around ensuring decisions are informed by empirical evidence and that internal threat assessment tools are valid and fit for purpose.
    • Through the Community Integration Support Program (CISP), we deliver, in partnership with community groups and other areas of government, a dedicated early intervention program which directly engages and supports individuals assessed as being vulnerable to RMVE.

      Through the development of individual case management plans, the CISP connects individuals with religious and secular mentors, psychological counselling and educational and vocational opportunities.

      The CISP also provides services to convicted terrorists for the purpose of assisting with their rehabilitation and reintegration.
    • In response to the growing threat of IMVE, Victoria Police has established the Network for Intervention and Tailored Engagement (NITE) program.

      The NITE is designed to provide a pathway towards disengagement for individuals who are either actively engaged, or at risk of engaging, in IMVE.

      The NITE utilises a holistic and multidisciplinary approach towards the disengagement process to address both the violent ideological beliefs, as well as the psychosocial factors, which can influence an individual to engage in IMVE.
    • Partnering with the Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS) led Countering Violent Extremism Multi-Agency Panel (CVE MAP).

      The CVE MAP is a case management scheme for individuals at risk of radicalising towards violent extremism and who would benefit from being connected to services delivered by agencies represented on the CVE MAP.

      Not every individual requires Victoria Police led CVE intervention, with the result that the CVE MAP will provide early intervention support for at risk individuals with low needs or vulnerabilities.

      The CVE MAP will oversight two case management arrangements – a voluntary scheme and a scheme which gives effect to court-imposed Support and Engagement Orders (SEO).

      Victoria Police will be represented on the CVE MAP alongside key government departments, CVE experts and mental health practitioners.

Key issue 2: Convicted terrorists

Over the coming years there will be an increase in the number of convicted terrorists eligible for release into the Victorian community following the completion of their sentences.

With this comes the concern that these individuals may re-enter the community with undiminished ideological views.

While some may actively participate in prison rehabilitation programs, others may continue to adhere to their violent ideologies for a variety of reasons.

The potential consequences of this were demonstrated in the United Kingdom, where several recently released terrorists went on to commit attacks (Streatham in 2019 and London Bridge in 2020).

While terrorist recidivism in the Australian context is relatively rare, the potential for terrorist recidivism raises a number of issues, including those related to the management of convicted terrorists post-release, the durability of violent extremist beliefs, as well as their potential to exacerbate the local radicalising environment by virtue of their so-called notoriety.

  • The effective management of convicted terrorists relies upon strategies that make full use of the broad array of counter terrorism capabilities. These include:

    • Targeted intelligence collection and investigation.
    • The use of legislation, Control Orders and monitoring activities to help ensure individuals are complying with established standards of behaviour and not engaging in activity that constitutes a national security risk.
    • Awareness among frontline staff of their responsibilities around the reporting and monitoring of released terrorists.
    • Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) interventions to help reduce the likelihood of terrorist recidivism through its focus on identifying needs-based violent extremist disengagement and reintegration support.

Key issue 3: Mental health and extremism

There has been an increase in the presence of mental disorders among individuals that undertake acts of terrorist violence. This is particularly true among lone actor terrorists.

Mental illness can influence an individual’s decision making and behaviours in diverse ways, adding layers of complexity to our efforts to identity and effectively manage these individuals.

The interplay between mental health and extremist vulnerability is complex.

Mental disorders, when present, may not be the driving factor when mentally unwell terrorists decide to undertake acts of violence, but one of many aggregating factors that contribute to a person’s desire to act.

Understanding how mental disorders may influence an individual’s vulnerability, along with how the threat may present, assists case managers in determining the most appropriate mode of intervention.

    • Victoria Police and the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health jointly operate the Victorian Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (VFTAC), a state-wide service that is staffed by investigators, intelligence analysts and senior forensic mental-health clinicians.

      The VFTAC deals specifically with fixated individuals and grievance fuelled lone actors, many of whom have a significant mental illness or mental health needs.
    • Victoria Police’s principal countering violent extremism (CVE) programs, the Community Integration Support Program (CISP) and the Network for Intervention and Tailored Engagement (NITE), both have a dedicated clinical support capability.

      This allows us to adopt a more nuanced and holistic approach to case management within preventative and rehabilitative contexts.
    • The Security Investigation Unit (SIU), through its dedicated forensic psychologist, provides important behavioural and cognitive insights into existing and potential persons of interest (POI).

      In addition to helping assess mental health disorders, this capability has other important operational utility due to its capacity to inform POI levels of concern.

Key issue 4: Returning foreign fighters and families

Australian foreign fighters and their families that may return from international conflict zones continue to represent a potential threat due to their exposure or commitment to violent extremist ideology, the acquisition of combat skills, and relationship with violent extremists.

However, it is anticipated that most future repatriations will be of children and their mothers.

The extent to which they may exert any influence will likely be felt primarily through their capacity to exacerbate the local radicalising environment, which will be difficult to determine in the short to medium term.

Additionally, due to the nature of repatriated children’s experiences in particular, they will likely face reintegration and re-socialisation challenges.

While the precise nature of each child’s experiences might never be known, it is likely that returning children will have been exposed to significant physical and psychological trauma.

Moreover, religiously and ideologically motivated Australians may continue to consider travel to international conflict zones in response to events that appeal to, or resonate with, their peculiar ideological and psychosocial needs and circumstances.

    • The potential repatriation of these individuals will be determined by the Commonwealth Government, with Victoria Police and other state-based agencies and services performing a supporting role where required.
    • Victoria Police will contribute to multi-agency arrangements, which, depending on the nature of the repatriation, will include law enforcement and intelligence partners, health agencies and community-based organisations.

      For instance, in the case of repatriated children, Victoria Police will continue to encourage, and work within the structure of, a collaborative arrangement involving relevant government and community partners.

      This approach provides a basis for a balanced and wide-ranging approach to the needs of both children and community safety.
    • Through our involvement with the Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT), assist in gathering evidence against individuals assessed as having breached Commonwealth legislation due to their activities overseas.

Key issue 5: The internet and social media platforms

The anonymity of the internet affords users the ability to express views that they may not otherwise share for fear of repercussion or public condemnation. Moreover, the online environment is attractive to terrorists as it is not subject to centralised control, lacks censorship and is widely accessible.

Online platforms are therefore often utilised as a mechanism to radicalise individuals to violence, propagate hate speech and other extreme views, and promote a range of conspiracy theories.

It can also fulfill other important roles, including providing extremists a forum through which to engage in covert communication.

The online environment also has the capacity to extend the reach of terrorists and terrorist organisations throughout the world.

The internet and social media platforms have allowed terrorists overseas to virtually target, radicalise and recruit individuals in Victoria with greater ease than ever before, creating significant challenges for Victoria Police and its partners.

The targeted removal of extremist material by some mainstream social media platforms has also led many extremists to move their messaging and conversations onto encrypted platforms and the dark web.

This not only hinders the ability of police to identify communication of national security concern but can also hasten individuals’ radicalisation to violence by limiting opportunities for exposure to alternate or moderating views.

Encrypted communications utilised by extremists will likely continue to present challenges for the foreseeable future.

    • Proactively monitor the online environment with a view to identifying existing and emerging threats.
    • Where possible, work with social media platforms to remove content supportive of terrorism or which can undermine public safety.
    • Invest in innovative technologies to mitigate barriers to online intelligence collection and provide regular upskilling opportunities to enhance technical skillsets across the organisation.
    • Maintain strong collaborative arrangements with technical experts across the public and private sectors.

Reviewed 17 February 2023

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