news

What it means for parents: 54 Aussie schools deemed at risk of racist or 'lone wolf' terror attacks.

Yesterday, the Australian Government announced funding for security guards in some schools to prevent a “lone wolf” terrorist attack. Today, a terrorism expert explains what all schools should be doing to prepare.

Schools that the Australian Government has deemed at risk of racist or ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attacks will be allocated extra funding to increase security as part of an initiative announced by the Federal Justice Minister today.

The Government has set aside $18m for schools to employ security guards in 54 schools who were selected through a “competitive process”.

Schools were selected because they showed that some schools were at “increased risk…because of the profile of the student body and the community in which they are [located]”.

For more: How to talk to your kids about terrorism.

Justice Minister, Michael Keenan, was keen to point out that there was no specific threat to the schools being funded:

“It’s not about any specific threat. We’re not aware of any specific threat to any of the 54 schools that are receiving this funding but it’s a sensible precautionary measure to make sure that we can improve the confidence of students, parents and teachers who come to these institutions.”

The Guardian reported that more than half of the 54 schools are Jewish or Islamic schools. The 17 Jewish schools identified will receive nearly $7.6m, and the 15 Islamic schools will receive $4.4m.

The 22 remaining schools, which are government and independent schools, will share $4.6m.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan speaking on Sky News.

It’s scary stuff to think that Australian children might be the target of domestic terrorism. So we spoke to a terrorism expert, who could explain to parents just what the risk is and how this new Government funding might help.

International Director of the Global Terrorism Research Centre, Professor Greg Barton from Monash University says that, when it comes to protecting schools from a terrorist incident, it’s a situation that is “low-risk but high-impact”.

ADVERTISEMENT

“For most schools it is not a pressing issue but for some, especially Jewish schools, such security is already in place and is arguable appropriate,” Barton says. He points to the case of Mohamed Merah, who shot dead Jewish students and teachers in Toulouse, France in 2012.

On 19 March 2012, four people, including three children, were killed at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish day school in Toulouse, France. (via Wikipedia)

While security guards play their part, Barton says there is another priority: “For most schools what is more important is having an incident response plan in place.”

Barton says, “this is new territory for Australian schools. But in the same way that schools might prepare for a fire, we can have a plan and work through how we would deal with this kind of [terrorist] threat in the school environment”.

According to Barton, this response plan might include warning systems and strategies to contain or quarantine a situation (so that students, staff or parents don’t inadvertently wander into danger), as well as a plan to make sure that police are given timely and detailed information about the incident.

“This is new territory for Australian schools.”

As to what parents and community members can do, Barton says that, “when it comes to terrorism, prevention is the best cure”.

“The best security we have comes from human intelligence – and that means having the involvement of people right across the community, but particularly within communities where there’s a degree of radicalisation going on and where people are being preyed upon by radical elements,” says Barton.

“It might be something you see on your social networks, or in the community: if your gut reaction is that something isn’t quite right, then speak up.”