Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arrives for the summit with national counter-terrorism co-ordinator Greg Moriarty. Photo: Andrew MearesAnalysis: Building trust the key to countering terrorism
Families, friends and teachers of youngsters who show signs of budding Islamic extremism need to feel more comfortable about approaching authorities, Malcolm Turnbull’s urgent counter-terrorism summit has concluded.
National security and law enforcement chiefs as well as top bureaucrats from education and social services departments met in Canberra on Thursday and are set to recommend to federal and state governments that earlier intervention is needed to stop youngsters becoming extremists.
Fairfax Media understands that much of the discussion – which will form the basis of recommendations to governments – revolved around giving concerned families and community members easier ways to reach out to authorities.
This reflects a long-held concern by police and intelligence agencies that they cannot spot every extremist, nor stop every plot, and therefore need the community’s help as a source of information.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan, speaking after the summit, said concerned family members, friends and teachers needed to come forward about suspected extremists but this did not mean arrests and charges would follow.
“Just because you’ve called the national security hotline does not mean that a law enforcement intervention will follow. It is possible that when the facts of the particular individual’s circumstances become clear, that we could … divert people away from this dark path without having to go down a law enforcement intervention,” he said.
“It may well be that we could work with the school community, it may well be that you could work with a social worker. These are the sorts of things that are available to us if we have concerns about somebody.
“The earlier we know, the more likelihood we’ve got of being able to work to save somebody.”
The national counter-terrorism co-ordinator Greg Moriarty, who chaired the meeting, said this was the strong view among police gathered at the Canberra summit.
“Talking to all of the police forces gathered in the room today, they are looking where they possibly can to keep people out of the justice system. They are really wanting to work with communities, to work with educators, to work with others to makes ure that people can be put onto pathways that avoid the justice system.”
Sources inside the meeting said that “alternative pathways” such as new phone hotlines, websites and apps were discussed for the community to come forward earlier.
Much of the talking was done by officials from outside law enforcement, such as education and multicultural affairs agencies, it is understood.
Mr Keenan said the meeting had covered “the need for further teacher training, for resourcing for youth, and for how we can run interventions that are aimed at peer groups”.
The meeting’s recommendations will go to the Council of n Governments, when Mr Turnbull meets with state leaders, expected to be at the end of November.
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