Skip to main content

Australian National Security
You are here > > Skip breadcrumbAustralian National Security > > Security and your community > > National Terrorism Threat Advisory System

 National Terrorism Threat Advisory System

Australia's current National Terrorism Threat Level is PROBABLE.

this diagram is showing the yellow probable threat level logo 

The National Terrorism Threat Advisory System is a scale of five levels to provide advice about the likelihood of an act of terrorism occurring in Australia:

This text diagram shows the five threat levels and their associated colours: not expected (green), possible (blue), probable (yellow), expected (orange) and certain (red) When the threat level changes, the Australian Government provides advice on what the threat level means, where the threat is coming from, potential targets and how a terrorist act may be carried out.

The National Terrorism Threat Level is regularly reviewed in line with the security environment and intelligence.

It is important to be aware of the current threat level and to report any suspicious incidents to the National Security Hotline on 1800 123 400.

More information is available in the following fact sheet:

The Australian security environment

Australia's National Terrorism Threat Level remains PROBABLE. Credible intelligence, assessed by our security agencies, indicates that individuals or groups continue to possess the intent and capability to conduct a terrorist attack in Australia. The public should continue to exercise caution and report any suspicious incidents to the National Security Hotline by calling 1800 123 400. Life-threatening situations should be reported to the police by calling Triple Zero (000).

International terrorist groups have proven adept at using their extremist ideology to motivate lone actors and small groups to use violence in their home countries. Individuals in Australia can be influenced directly by overseas-based extremists as well as by a wide range of propaganda which provides inspiration, encouragement and instructions for terrorist attacks onshore. External influence has been a feature of several prevented terrorism plots and attacks in Australia and also in terrorist incidents across Europe, the United States and Asia.

The terrorist threat in Australia has been elevated since September 2014—in the subsequent period there have been 16 major disruption operations in relation to imminent attack planning and seven terrorist attacks targeting people in Australia. Almost all these attacks and disruptions occurred in Sydney or Melbourne, and we expect those cities will remain most exposed to the threat. However, in Australia, as in other Western countries, the terrorist threat is not confined to the major cities. Australia and Australians continue to be viewed as legitimate targets by those who wish to do us harm and believe they have an ideological justification to conduct attacks. Additionally, any of the small number of Australians involved with violent extremist groups overseas who return home may present long-term challenges.

Terrorism in Australia

The violent ideology of Sunni Islamist terrorist groups—such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qa'ida—continues to appeal to a small number of people in Australia. These groups use the power of the internet to spread their propaganda to an existing audience and also aim it at those susceptible to radicalisation. The broad body of terrorist propaganda continues to grow. Some propaganda releases specifically celebrate previous terrorist attacks including the methods and tactics used in attacks, while others feature tailored messaging that references specific countries or individuals. Australia continues to be specifically mentioned in some pro-ISIL propaganda—these releases add to a large body of material that encourages terrorism. While a single piece of propaganda, or mention of Australia, is unlikely to be the sole catalyst for an onshore attack it can offer inspiration, guidance and instructions that may appeal to individuals willing to use violence. The impact of the actions of even one individual willing to use violence can be significant and is clearly evident in the terrorist attacks that have occurred in Australia since 2014.

The primary terrorist threat in Australia is from a small number of Islamist extremists, principally lone actors or small groups. While we must be prepared for more complex attack plots, simple attack methodologies that enable individuals to act independently and with a high degree of agility remain the more likely form of terrorism in Australia. The simple nature of these attacks means preparation may not involve activity that will come to the attention of authorities—meaning there is no guarantee of early detection or disruption. Many Islamist terrorist attacks and plots aim to inflict maximum casualties or indiscriminately target members of the public and attackers often aim to be killed during their attack.

The lone actor threat is not confined to Islamist extremists. Individuals motivated by other ideological agendas could also consider conducting an act of terrorism; the 2016 arrest and subsequent terrorism-related charges against a right-wing lone actor in Melbourne reinforces this threat.

Terrorist targeting

While the symbolic appeal of an attack against a government or authority—such as the military, police and security agencies—remains, members of the public and locations where large crowds congregate could also be attacked indiscriminately. Attacks against the general public designed to cause injury or death are aimed at disrupting our lives and causing fear; even a simple attack can meet this objective. Additionally, an alleged complex terrorist plot to attack aviation disrupted in Sydney in July 2017 is a reminder that sophisticated terrorist plots targeting the West are possible.

It is important for the public to maintain a level of awareness and to report any suspicious activity immediately to authorities— provides information on what to report and how to report it.

Terrorist weapons and tactics

While the most likely form of terrorism in Australia remains an attack by an individual or small group using simple attack methodologies, the possibility of more complex attacks cannot be ruled out.

Any terrorist attack in Australia over the next 12 months would probably involve weapons and tactics that are low-cost and relatively simple, including basic weapons, explosives and/or firearms. Basic weapons are readily available, as everyday objects that do not require specialist skills. Terrorists have used basic weapons such as knives, machetes or vehicles to conduct lethal attacks. Explosives remain a favoured terrorist weapon globally. There is a range of online literature and propaganda that provide instructions on how homemade explosives can be manufactured from readily available materials. Firearms can be sourced through legal and illicit channels.

Our response

Governments are working closely with communities to prevent terrorism, combat terrorist propaganda online and promote early intervention programmes.

Federal, state and territory authorities have well-tested cooperative arrangements in place and have adopted appropriate security measures.

Police and security agencies liaise closely with critical infrastructure owners and operators.

In the current environment, Australians should go about their daily business as usual but should exercise caution and be aware of events around them. If you see, hear or become aware of something suspicious or unusual, call the National Security Hotline on 1800 123 400. Every call is important and could prevent a terrorist attack in Australia.

Local advice

See the following websites for information specific to your state/territory:

See the Frequently asked questions page for answers to some general questions about national security.

Overview of the National Terrorism Threat Advisory System