The secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria says more money must be allocated in the federal budget for counter-radicalisation programs, that are better targeted and can be rolled out in schools.
The federal government will next month announce the recipients of $1 million in grants for community programs to combat extremism.
It’s understood about 100 applications were received for the scheme, which comes under the $13.4 million Living Safe Together initiative unveiled in August as part of a $630 million national security package.
Seyfi Seyit, from the Islamic Council of Victoria, which is in continuing discussions with Attorney-General George Brandis’ office, and is forming its own counter-radicalisation strategy, said the funding announced in August should be regarded as a starting point.
“While not enough is being allocated and none of that money has actually trickled down to the community as yet, it’s not exactly fair to say that it’s being neglected by the government,” Mr Seyit told AAP.
“I would be surprised if the government doesn’t allocate more funding. I know the government is trying to bring down their spending and the deficit but this is an issue that needs more effort and resources put towards it.”
The comments come amid a growing sense of urgency among Muslim leaders of the need to counter the extremist narrative from groups such as Islamic State, and after a third teenager was stopped last month trying to leave Australia for the Middle East.
Senator Brandis earlier this month said that “regrettably, over the last six months, the demographic had continued to get younger with teenage boys and girls as young as 15 and 16 being stopped at airports and those as young as 14 being radicalised”.
Senator Brandis on Sunday told AAP the government welcomes the work of organisations such as the Islamic Council of Victoria.
“Success in countering violent extremism requires a partnership between governments, community groups, and the public more broadly,” he said.
The Living Safe Together package also includes $11.6 million for intervention programs that work with community to identify and tailor services for at-risk individuals.
Mr Seyit said more money must be directed towards education and mentoring programs in schools, particularly in NSW and Victoria, but also to “credible” Muslim organisations that could act as “conduits” between community and government.
He said radicalisation was a complex issue, but that many people in the Muslim community thought current programs aimed at countering the extremist narrative were ineffective.
And while the government appeared to be in some ways “clutching at straws” when it comes to engaging with the Muslim community, it was also up to Muslim leaders to come up with a counter-narrative, Mr Seyit said.