Australian Security and Intelligence Conference

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


SRI Security Research Institute, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia


This paper was originally presented at The Proceedings of [the] 8th Australian Security and Intelligence Conference, held from the 30 November – 2 December, 2015 (pp. 75-86), Edith Cowan University Joondalup Campus, Perth, Western Australia.


This article aims to demonstrate how radicalisation, violent-extremism and terrorism are terms often used interchangeably – terms that do not have the same meaning and are generally poorly defined. It will reveal, as with other terminologies pertaining to this area of interest, how violent-extremism has no universally accepted definition, and remains tainted with ambiguity. Arguably, the term is predominantly used as a social label in discussions on terrorism and other forms of extreme violence – particularly applied to those who have a distorted interpretation of religious ideology to justify the use of violence to achieve specific socio-political aimsTo provide a better understanding of violent-extremism, its root causes and its prevention, a proposal of an accurate depiction of its meaning and clarification on the context of its use are paramount. This article will provide a brief introduction to the terms radicalisation, violent-extremism and terrorism; and will present various ways they have been defined in existing academic literature and policy documents. It will further explain the delineation between the three terms; and propose a practical definition for the term violent-extremism to enhance our ability as a community to apply appropriate measures to prevent escalation of root-cause issues that potentially lead to violent action.