Credit points


Campus offering

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Unit rationale, description and aim

Terrorism involves the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, and usually in the pursuit of political aims. Understanding terrorism and the terrorist mind-set, together with the counter-terrorism provisions within the criminal justice system is needed to help engage effectively with current approaches to prevention, prosecution, de-radicalisation and countering violent extremism.

This unit is presented in two intimately linked parts.

The first, explores the phenomenon of terrorist violence in modern society. In this part of the unit students will develop knowledge and a fundamental understanding of the nature of terrorism. This includes a comprehensive survey of the definitional elements of terrorism, the history of terrorism, the terrorist mind-set, and the causes of terrorism. Students are expected to consider various terrorist organisations and ideologies and examine radicalisation processes that lead to violent action. Several conceptual approaches will be explored for the purpose of understanding the process of radicalisation, and to provide a basis for countering terrorist threats.

The later part of the unit focuses on counter-terrorism responses within the criminal justice system. This is to be facilitated by a cross-disciplinary approach utilising criminology, sociology and law. In the Australian context, this primarily concerns the prevention and prosecution of alleged terrorists and extremists. Having considered selected approaches regarding surveillance and prevention, students are introduced to aspects of the counter-terrorism framework, namely Australia’s anti-terrorism offences, preventive orders, consequences for rights, and the prosecution of offenders in criminal trials. The unit concludes by considering current approaches to de-radicalisation and countering violent extremism.

With an emphasis on Australia, the aim of this unit is to help students to develop a fundamental and interdisciplinary understanding of the nature of terrorism in modern society, and the counter-terrorism responses within the criminal justice system. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe key aspects of the literature and debates on terrorism and counter-terrorism (GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

LO2 - Explain the key concepts, theories and principles integral to the understanding of terrorism (GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

LO3 - Apply knowledge, concepts, theories and principles of terrorism and counter-terrorism in a case study and form independent conclusions (GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

LO4 - Explain the key concepts of counter-terrorism, related theories and approaches, and the role and functions of agencies involved in counter-terrorism efforts (GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA7 - Work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - Locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - Demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - Utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively


Topics will include:

  • Introduction: What is terrorism?
  • Terrorism: Past, present and future
  • Radicalisation: Pathways into terrorism
  • Terrorist organisations, networks and lone wolves
  • Surveillance and control in the post-9/11 era
  • Introduction to counter-terrorism
  • Intelligence gathering and policing of terrorism in Australia
  • Terrorist act offences
  • Proscription of terrorist organisations and offences
  • Regulation of foreign fighters
  • Preventive anti-terrorism law
  • Criminal prosecutions
  • De-radicalisation
  • Gender and terrorism

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit comprises 150 hours of study in total. It will be taught over a 12 week semester, with one 2-hour lecture followed by a 1-hour tutorial each week (except for week 1, in which there is no tutorial) or ACU Online 10 week asynchronous delivery mode. Other study components might include on-line webinars, podcasts, readings, discussion forums etc. The balance of the hours is comprised of self-directed study.

Lectures are used to introduce content, including core theories, concepts and principles. This teaching mode forms the basis for foundational learning. The required readings support this effort. Lectures are followed by tutorials designed to help students to develop their understanding of the foundational learning and apply it in a small group setting. In that environment, students discuss critical aspects of the content, develop oral and written responses to lecture and research materials, and achieve in-depth knowledge of each of the unit topics. Student learning is further supported by testing that knowledge through application in theoretical and hypothetical scenarios. In this way, students develop the ability to produce solutions supported by legal authorities as well as criminological and sociological theories and arguments.

The unit is delivered via mixed mode teaching involving some traditional teaching methods (e.g. attendance in class) augmented and supported by participation through access to online resources and activities. These may include scanned or uploaded book chapters, journal articles, and other aids, webinars, discussion forums, on-line quizzes. Technology support also comes in the form of class announcements and assessment information (including online submission, marking and posting of assessment results), which is intended to provide greater accessibility and flexibility to the learning experience.

ACU Online

This unit uses an active learning approach to support students in the exploration of knowledge essential to the discipline. Students are provided with choice and variety in how they learn. Students are encouraged to contribute to asynchronous weekly discussions. Active learning opportunities provide students with opportunities to practice and apply their learning in situations similar to their future professions. Activities encourage students to bring their own examples to demonstrate understanding, application and engage constructively with their peers. Students receive regular and timely feedback on their learning, which includes information on their progress.

Assessment strategy and rationale

Assessment is used in this unit as an integral part of the learning process by integrating it with the learning and teaching strategy described above. The assessment tasks provide students with the opportunity to develop knowledge, understanding and critical thinking, as well as to develop effective research skills and written and oral communication skills. This unit will be assessed by three assessment tasks. a content knowledge quiz, and two research assignments – the first focusing on the terrorism aspects of the unit, and the second focusing on the counter-terrorism aspects. The second research paper may be structured as a final examination.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Multiple-choice/short answer exam: Twenty question exam (15 multiple choice, 5 short answer). This assessment will test early student knowledge development based on the first four weeks of this unit.


LO1, LO3

GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Research assignment - terrorism: This requires students to demonstrate their ability to discuss and critically analyse concepts, theories and ideas related to terrorism. This may include examining the definitions and characteristics of terrorism, history, extremist ideologies, objectives of terrorist groups, causes and drivers of radicalisation, and recruitment. The research assignment will require students to write a case study on the topic of a particular terrorist group.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Research assignment or Exam: (counter-terrorism) This requires students to demonstrate their critical thinking skills, knowledge of terrorism and counter-terrorism concepts, theories and principles, and their ability to apply this knowledge to theoretical and hypothetical scenarios, and in the consideration of the merits and utility of theories and ideas. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Martin G, Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues [Second Edition] (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2016).

Kennedy L & McGarrell E, eds., Crime and Terrorism Risk: Studies in Criminology and Criminal Justice, 2011.

Forst B, Terrorism, Crime and Public Policy, 2008.

Hamm M, Terrorism As Crime: From Oklahoma City to Al-Qaeda and Beyond, 2007.

Ball K & Webster F, eds., The Intensification of Surveillance: Crime, Terrorism and Warfare in the Information Age, 2003.

Poole H, Crime and Terrorism: Childhood Fears and Anxieties, 2018.

Windle J et al, eds., Historical Perspectives on Organized Crime and Terrorism: Routledge SOLON Explorations in Crime and Criminal Justice Histories, 2021.

Nacos B, Terrorism and Counterterrorism: International Student Edition, 6th edition, 2019.

Moroney P, Terrorism in Australia: Story of Operation Pendennis, 2018.

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