Question Time - National Security

  • Transcript, E&OE
15 June 2015

Ms SCOTT (Lindsay) (14:37): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister update the House on the important role women can play in combating terrorism and preventing the radicalisation of vulnerable young people? Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:37): I thank the member for Lindsay for her question. I know how concerned she is about this issue. The Australian government is engaged in a broad, holistic, sustained and integrated campaign to combat terrorism using all of the resources available to us: Defence personnel in Iraq to assist the Iraqi security forces to build capability to take on the terrorist organisation Daesh; our law enforcement and intelligence agencies; and the counter narrative–which is so important–of our democratic and inclusive values.

This response is needed because we know of around 110 Australians who are currently fighting with Daesh in the Middle East and around 155 or so who are supporting it at home here in Australia. Thirty to 40 Australian women are known to be either engaging in or supporting terrorist activity in Syria, Iraq and here in Australia. It defies all comprehension for women in particular to support extremist groups like Daesh given that it is women and girls who are so often disproportionately affected by the brutality of terrorist groups.

Tragically, women are playing a role in promoting the violence; but, more importantly, women are playing an active role in preventing it. Last week I addressed the regional ministerial meeting on countering violent extremism, which was hosted by our Attorney-General. The Prime Minister spoke at that summit. It was held in Sydney, and I spoke about the role women can play in combating radicalisation. We were able to share ideas, insights and experiences with women leaders from our region.

Amina Rasul Bernardo from the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy outlined how her organisation is mobilising women from madrasahs to spread messages of peace and democracy. She is helping women find their voices to challenge extremist narratives. Yenny Zannuba Wahid from the Wahid Institute in Indonesia outlined the work being done to spread moderate Islam's message of female equality and to highlight the positive and active role women can play in promoting a moderate Islamic message.

As I said at the summit, Daesh adopts the same tactics as online sexual predators, grooming young targets in isolation and seeking to pull them away from parents and friends, so this can happen to individuals even though they have family and friends around them. So women must be a key part of our response.

Today I met with Joumanah El Matrah of the Australian Muslim Women's Centre for Human Rights and I discussed with her how the Australian government can work with her organisation–work with Muslim women. We discussed the ways the government can engage with the groups here who are seeking to promote the counter narrative to defeat terrorism–defeat that brutal ideology.

This government is absolutely committed to supporting Muslim women, including the leaders who are taking steps to combat terrorism at home and abroad.

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