Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world and is sparsely made up of Aboriginals and immigrants from a large number of countries.  The entire Australian horizon is symbolic of the culture of their society: modern, dynamic, and full of surprises. It makes us think, “How safe is Australia?”

Despite the current quarantine situation due to COVID-19, many people continue to choose this country as the destination for their vacations or the beginning of their new lives. Why? Well, Australia is an extremely safe country, compared to any other country on the globe.

This great nation is among the 20 safest countries on the planet and ranks 71 in the Global Terrorism Index of 2019. This means it has a relatively low level of risk of attacks against the government and groups of people with the intent to create terror. But what does this say all about safety in Australia? What is Australia’s terror threat level?

Terrorist attacks in Australia

In 2021, a study promoted by the University of Cambridge was presented to the world, and accurately determined the number of terrorist attacks in Australia in the last decade. The researchers drew on the global terrorism database and collected all the events that met the criteria for a terrorist attack.

Now you will ask yourself, “What makes a terrorist attack a terrorist attack?” Well, in Australia and the rest of the world, terrorism is characterized by the following features:

  • It is an organized, indiscriminate, and premeditated criminal activity.
  • It operates under a political, religious, or economic purpose, which justifies the means of action.
  • It exists in complicity with the spread of terror (as its name implies).

The next thing you are wondering maybe is, “How many terrorist attacks have there been in Australia?” Well, the Cambridge University study found out in Australia there were thirty-seven events considered as terrorist attacks, between the years 2009 and 2019. However, those attacks were also considered as manageable, small-scale incidents, and with easy to dismember modalities.

For example, the last act considered by the authorities as a relevant terrorist attack happened on November 9, 2018, in Melbourne. That day a man beat and stabbed several passersby on a busy street, but the authorities acted immediately; as a result, there were two deaths (including the attacker at the hands of the police) and just two wounded.

Not to mention the terrorism in Australia statistics alone are quite small, compared to other developed countries. For example, between 1994 and 2020, there were 893 terrorist attacks and plots in the United States attributed to radical ideologies; even though there are several years of difference with the study in Australia, the number of events is still prominent.

Then…

What is the risk of terrorism in Australia?

According to the official website of National Security Australia, terrorists tend to attack governments, authorities, and groups of defenceless people. In this country, the most likely form of terrorism attacks are on individuals or small groups with simple methods, but this does not mean it is less important than large-scale attacks.

Even though the risk of suffering a terrorist attack and terrorism in Australia statistics are quite low than in other developed countries, of the 37 attacks in the past decade, 26 involved incendiary weapons, five attacks involved firearms, and only two were explosive attacks. As a result of these incidents, eleven people were killed and fourteen injured.

For a decade-old statistic, these are pretty minimal results compared to the thousands of victims of terrorism in the United States after 9/11. Not to mention there have been no relevant large-scale attacks or attacks that had a sophisticated organization and that has been carried out by national or global interest groups.

Every country would like its citizens not to suffer from radical and violent groups but, in conclusion, the terrorist risk in Australia is minimal. But still, how safe is Australia from terrorism? What are the authorities doing about this?

What is the AU government doing to combat terrorism?

how safe is Australia
Photo credit: filedimage / 123RF

Although we have already made it clear the terrorist risk in Australia is quite low, this does not mean that the authorities should not take action on the matter to protect their citizens. Rather, it is because of anti-terrorism policies and actions that a country can be this safe.

Since 2014, Australian leaders have set their sights on combating threats of terrorism and extremist ideologies. In this sense, they have aimed to bring the law to those who attempt against the peace of society through the counter-terrorism Australia laws, limiting the entry of people from zones of conflict, and carrying out anti-terrorist raids in large cities like Sydney.

But this is not all, so let’s see what the Australian government does about the problem of terrorism.

National Counter-Terrorism Australia Plan

The National Counter-Terrorism Plan is a project of National Security Services in Australia and is maintained by the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee. This document describes the responsibilities of each of the authorities against terrorist attacks, the mechanisms to prevent these acts within the country, and how to manage the consequences if they happen.

The objective of the anti-terrorism laws in Australia is to protect the lives of citizens and tourists visiting the country. Let’s take a look at the strategies that are used to accomplish this goal:

  • Audits and surveillance in crowded places prone to attacks.
  • Immediate initiation of response to attacks and restriction of offenders’ actions.
  • Decrease in the duration of incidents.
  • Mobilization of people from danger.
  • Prevention against violent ideologies to avoid people from engaging in terrorist activities.

Likewise, the Australian government also knows the dangers of today are not only physical, so they also designed strategies to preserve cyber security in the country. Therefore, National Security in Australia is very well organized in terms of defending its citizens and preventing harm to its society with the Counter-Terrorism in Australia Plan.

A hotline against terrorism? All about National Security for suspicious activities.

Authorities and governments cannot do everything alone; they have to count on the participation of communities and individuals, besides having anti-terrorism laws in Australia. That is why in this country, the public can act against suspected terrorist activity.

Any Australian, person who resides in the country, or tourist visiting the country, can call the National Security Hotline to report any incident or suspicious outbreaks. They can also report any life-threatening situation to the police at any time. Some of these hotlines are:

  • National Security Hotline: 1800 123 400.
  • Police line: 000.

Likewise, the authorities recommend making use of these lines responsibly and staying away from any dangerous activity for the common citizen.

Escape. Hide. Tell: What you do matters.

It has already been made clear no matter how safe a country is, any nation can be a victim of a terrorist attack. The scale does not matter or even if it is a simple aggressor with a knife or an attack on a determined group; the important thing is the defenceless and innocent are always the most affected.

Therefore, the terrorism laws in Australia have another tool focused on its citizens, based on three simple words everyone can remember: Escape. Hide. Tell. This is what the authorities of Australia recommend when facing a terrorist attack:

  • Escape: Citizens are recommended to move quickly and quietly from danger, just in case it is safe to do so. The more danger can be avoided, the better.
  • Hide: Staying out of the sight of aggressors is the best option, also keeping quiet while a dangerous event is happening, and maintaining the cell phone silent.
  • Tell: As soon as it is safe for the person involved in the event, the police should be called using the Triple Zero line shown above.

If you are in a dangerous event, the least you can usually remember is lengthy instructions and complicated methods. That is why these principles are simple and intuitive, promoting citizens to take quick actions when their lives are threatened.

Fortunately, not many Australians have been forced to implement these principles, since they have not had the need. However, it never hurts to know what to do in the most extreme case, and the authorities of this country know it very well.

So, it is safe to visit and live in Australia?

According to the most recent reports from National Security, Australia’s terror threat level is at a Probable level and falls in the middle of the five-level scale of the National Terrorist Threat Advisory System. However, this is an estimate based on prevention.

With the emergence of COVID-19, social and economic challenges have increased around the world, increasing violent tensions along with the threat from extremist groups across the globe. Therefore, the government has adopted this estimate to implement prevention strategies as you may have already seen before.

Densely populated cities like Sydney and Melbourne would be the focus of terrorist attacks if they exist today. However, statistics indicate the threat is not as “Probable” today. And with the work of the authorities in collaboration with the communities of today, citizens and tourists can feel relatively safe.

In summary, and to conclude, let’s try to answer your questions: is Australia a safe country? How safe is Australia? According to all the most current data, statistics, and projects of the authorities, everything seems to indicate, indeed, it is safe to travel and live in Australia.

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