Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Arriving at the Rotary Peace Centre, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, I was overwhelmed by the experience and diversity of conflict knowledge of my peers. Hailing from Australia, I initially found myself wondering what value I could add to the group, and how Australia was affected by these extreme conflicts occurring in and around the homelands of my classmates. At first glance it seemed that Australia was a sleepy hollow in comparison the struggles in Nigeria, Pakistan, Kenya, Columbia, etc.
As we started in the second and third week, it was apparent to me that the impact of the conflicts which were happening across the globe were actually having an effect on Australia which was contributing to the issues which are disturbing the peace and harmony of society. The two threats which I identified were terrorism, and the crime and disorder perpetrated by African refugees. The first is an existing threat which is ever present in Australian society, the second being an emerging threat which has the capacity to manifest if not properly addressed.
Historically, Australia has had very few acts of terrorism. In 1995 the French consulate was bombed in Perth, Western Australia, the motivation for which was protesting against the proposal for French nuclear testing. In 2001, although not classified by Australia as a terrorist attack, Peter James Knight attacked a family planning clinic in East Melbourne, shooting one security guard before his arrest. Based on the motivation for this attack being politically motivated, scholars have since argued that this was in fact terrorism. It was not until 2014 that Australia recorded the next terrorist incident, and it is here that I started to make the link between world conflicts and how Australia is affected.
In analysing the link between global conflicts and the emergence of terrorism in Australia from 2014, it is important that we look at the significant movements of Islamic State, the world’s largest and most destructive terrorist organisation. In June of 2014 the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, declared the establishment of a Caliphate, an Islamic State across the world, and called all Muslims to wage jihad against all infidels (non-believers). He called on Muslims across the globe to rise-up and carry out attacks against foreign governments in support of the implementation of the Islamic State.
Further analysis of the terror attacks which have occurred within Australia identified that the first attack occurred in September 2014 in Endeavour Hills, Victoria, where two counter terrorism officers were stabbed by an Afghan immigrant carrying an Islamic State flag. In December of the same year, Man Haron Monis, an Iranian immigrant, took 18 people hostage at gunpoint in the Lindt Café in Sydney, again displaying an Islamic State flag. In 2015, a New South Wales Police employee, Curtis Cheng, was shot by a 15-year-old Iraqi-Kurd immigrant outside Parramatta Police Station. In September 2016, a Bangladeshi immigrant stabbed two people in an attack inspired by Islamic State. In 2017, two teenage boys stabbed a man to death following online radicalisation, in the name of Islamic State. Later in 2017, a Somalian refugee shot one person dead and took one hostage in Brighton, Victoria, this was later claimed by Islamic State and declared a terrorist incident. Two Islamic State inspired stabbings followed in 2018 occurring in the state of Victoria; these were also declared as terrorist incidents.
The seven terrorist attacks which have occurred since 2001, have followed the promotion of jihad by Al-Baghdadi in 2014. Unlike most other countries, Australia sits in isolation, away from direct conflict from neighbouring states who can cross its borders and cause conflict through insurgency. As a proud multicultural society, inclusive of all faiths and ethnicities, Australia has a perception of being relatively untouched by conflict. Whilst this is generally the case, indirect impacts of conflict from across the globe have had significant effects on the country, usually manifesting in terrorist incidents.
The emerging threat to the disruption of Australian society is what the media are labelling “African Gang Violence.” This term, albeit highly inflammatory, is used by the media when groups of African refugee youths are involved in disorder and violence. These refugees usually originate from Sudan and Somalia. The African refugee issue is the subject of my Individual Conflict Analysis, the project which forms the major assessment component of the Fellowship.
When looking at the Global Peace Index, which ranks countries in the world from the most to the least peaceful countries, we see that South Sudan and Somalia rank in the top six of the worlds least peaceful countries and Australia is ranked as 13/163 most peaceful. Australia has, since 1977, ranked consistently as one of the top three resettlement countries in the world, and 10% of all refugees settled into Australia as refugees, come from these African countries. Therefore, without proper integration of refugees from some of the least peaceful countries in the world, to one of the most peaceful, we cannot hope to resolve and reduce conflict between these different cultures and address the adverse life experiences which are considered norms in these hostile lands.
It was now that I realised that I had much to contribute and gain from this Fellowship. With world class experts and leaders in their fields, the facilitating staff for this Fellowship will certainly shape and develop the wealth of knowledge already present in the fellows in my class. I hope to absorb this knowledge and return to Australia to work proactively towards programs and interventions which can assist in assimilation of refugees into what is generally a safe and civilised culture and society.
Gary Pusey – Australia
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 27