Question Time - National Security
Ms SCOTT (Lindsay) (14:42): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister advise the House on the action the government is taking to stop young Australian women and girls from being radicalised and supporting terrorist organisations?
Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:42): I thank the member for Lindsay for her question and I note her concern about this very serious issue. Preventing the radicalisation of our young people, particularly young women and girls, is a top priority for this government. Members would be aware of the disturbing reports of a Sydney mother who, it is claimed, has abandoned her two children to live under the brutal regime of Daesh. I am deeply pessimistic about the fate of this apparently troubled young woman, but I am thankful that she left her children in the safety of Australia and did not put them in mortal danger, as others have done.
Disturbingly this is not an isolated case. Of the thousands and thousands of foreign terrorist fighters who have travelled to Daesh controlled areas, as many as 550 are women from western Europe, from the United States, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. The French government has estimated that 115 French women have joined or are supporting Daesh. We estimate that about 30 to 40 Australian women are actively engaged in or supporting the terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
It seems that Daesh has taken atrocities against women to a new level of violence. UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura has recently returned from Syria and Iraq. She has cited appalling cases, including a 20-year-old girl who was burnt alive because she refused to perform an extreme sexual act. Another who was traded by Daesh fighters over 20 times. In fact, as Special Representative Bangura said to the media on her return, ISIL or Daesh:
… have institutionalised sexual violence and the brutalisation of women as a central aspect of their ideology and operations, using it as a tactic of terrorism to advance their key strategic objectives.
She went on to describe how women were promised to fighters and how ISIL raised funds through trafficking, prostitution and ransoms. Sexual violence is used to displace populations; to punish, humiliate and demoralise dissenters; to extract information for intelligence purposes; and to dismantle social, familial and community structures in order to construct a new caliphate.
It is simply incomprehensible that, while streams of innocent young women and girls are desperately trying to get away from Daesh, young Australian women and girls are seeking to join them. So combatting the ways which young Australian women and men are being lured by this extremist ideology is our top priority. We have committed $40 million in new funding for intervention programs, community initiatives working with the community over coming months to prevent young people leaving this country to join terrorist organisations. This government is committed to combatting extremism, to preventing radicalisation and to keeping our young people, including our young women and girls, safe from terrorists.