The threat

Strategy purpose

The purpose of this Strategy is to:

  • Provide a framework for Victoria Police’s counter terrorism activities centered on our core focus areas of Prevention, Protection, Disruption and Response.
  • Identify the key terrorist-related threats and how Victoria Police, through a process of change and consolidation, intends to address these over the next four years.
  • Increase awareness and transparency of Victoria Police’s counter terrorism activities and priorities.

The local threat environment remains highly dynamic and diverse and is often influenced by events and circumstances outside Victoria and Australia.

This environment could therefore deteriorate rapidly and be precipitated by events over which we’re likely to have little to no control. This, along with the fact that an increasing number of threats are coming from unexpected and unconventional quarters, creates significant challenges for Victoria Police, as it does for our law enforcement and intelligence partners.

The COVID-19 pandemic is illustrative of this development. While the long-term security implications of the pandemic remain unknown, there are concerns that it has led to the spread and consumption of extremist ideologies that can lead individuals to radicalise to violence.

Importantly, what the past several years have emphasised is that the terrorist threat can take many forms and be shaped by very specific contemporary events and circumstances. Moreover, we’ve seen a greater geographical dispersal across Victoria of individuals at risk of radicalisation to violence, with the result that our counter terrorism capabilities need to be projected more widely than has traditionally been the case.

Despite some of these changes, we’ve also witnessed consistency in terrorist methodologies, with lone actor, low capability attacks continuing to dominate the threat landscape, while attacks on crowded places also remain a strong feature.

Narratives of victimisation and hate, which are so important to the formation of grievances among terrorists and violent extremists of all persuasions, also continue to spread openly throughout the virtual world, sustaining many of the terrorist threats we see today.

On a local and national level, two threats in particular continue to dominate the threat landscape – religiously motivated violent extremism and ideologically motivated violent extremism. 

Religiously Motivated Violent Extremism

The primary threat of terrorist activity in Victoria remains that posed by religiously motivated violent extremism (RMVE).

Groups inspired by Salafi-jihadi ideology, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda continue to operate in various parts of the world and retain the ability to garner support within Victoria, particularly through their various carefully constructed propaganda efforts, which are designed to target vulnerable individuals, including youth and existing supporters.

This propaganda often seeks to inspire attacks of varying levels of sophistication, but particularly those best described as lone actor and low capability.

There will for some time be a very small number of individuals for whom this extremist propaganda, including calls for action from among key leaders and ideologues, will resonate and for whom this material, coupled with a range of specific personal circumstances, will serve as a catalyst for action.

It is expected that RMVE will remain the most significant terrorist-related threat in Victoria for the foreseeable future and will continue to be driven by a range of local and international events and circumstances.

Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremism

Since the release of Victoria Police’s previous Strategy, Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremism (IMVE) has come to play a more significant role in the local, national and international security environments.

The most prominent IMVE attack in recent years, the Christchurch mosques shooting in 2019, signaled a development within the global security environment highlighting the ideological breadth of IMVE, whilst raising the prominence of key ideas associated with this broad and diverse movement.

Moreover, there has been a steady rise in the spread of ideologies associated with nationalist and racist violent extremism, an outcome enabled significantly by the accessibility of extremist material circulated through social media and encrypted and private messaging applications.

The most probable terror attack scenario will involve a lone actor operating on the periphery of the nationalist and racist violent extremist movement.

Violence is likely to be targeted towards perceived ideological opponents, but may also extend to politicians and public figures, depending on the prominence or emphasis of individuals’ highly personal grievances or motivations.

In November 2015 Australia adopted the new National Terrorism Threat Advisory System (NTTAS). Comprising five levels, the NTTAS indicates and provides advice about the likelihood of an act of terrorism occurring in Australia.

The National Terrorism Threat Level is regularly reviewed in line with the security environment and intelligence. When the threat level changes, the Australian Government will provide advice on what the new threat level means - where the threat is coming from, potential targets and how a terrorist act may be carried out.

The public should continue to report any suspicious incidents to the National Security Hotline by calling 1800 123 400 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Life-threatening situations should be reported to the police by calling Triple Zero (000).

Current national terrorism threat level

  • Download' Current national terrorism threat level'

Credible intelligence indicates that, while Australia is a possible target of terrorists, there is limited intention or capacity to conduct an attack.

In the event of a change in the National Terrorism Threat Level, Victoria Police will re-evaluate this Strategy to ensure that our activities remain aligned to the threat.