Skip Ribbon Commands Skip to main content
Home > About Us > What is violent extremism?

 What is violent extremism?

Violent extremism is the beliefs and actions of people who support or use violence to achieve ideological, religious or political goals. This includes terrorism and other forms of politically motivated and communal violence.

All forms of violent extremism seek change through fear and intimidation rather than through peaceful means.

If a person or group decides that fear, terror and violence are justified to achieve ideological, political or social change, and then acts accordingly, this is violent extremism.

Violent extremism in Australia

Australia has enjoyed a peaceful history, relatively free from violent extremism. Though the threat to the Australian community from violent extremist behaviour is small, it still exists.

Actions of violent extremists threaten Australia's core values and principles, including human rights, the rule of law, democracy, equal opportunity and freedom. The Australian Government rejects all forms of violent extremism and promotes a harmonious and inclusive society.

Motivations for violent extremism

There are many different types of violent extremism. Motivations are varied and many usually relate to particular ideologies (for example, interpretations of political movements or religious beliefs), issues such as environmental or economic concerns, or ethnic or separatist causes. People can also be motivated by more than one issue.

Examples of violent extremism

Ideological violence

  • Political ideologies such as nationalist, Neo-Nazi groups or hate groups that advocate the use of violence.
  • Extreme interpretations of religious ideologies and beliefs that advocate the use of violence, promoted by groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Army of God.

Issue-based violence

  • Violent animal liberation or environmental activism.
  • Anti-government, anti-globalisation or anti-capitalist movements that advocate the use of violence.

Ethno-nationalist or separatist violence

  • Violent political or independence struggles based on race, culture or ethnicity, eg ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), a separatist group seeking independence from Spain for the Basque people, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the United Kingdom and the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka.

If you would like to know more, see the information sheets on what is violent extremism.