Australia has a range of laws to help manage the threat of terrorism. This includes laws dealing with terrorism offences, and laws that enable the Government to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks. Australia’s counter-terrorism laws are always under review to ensure they remain relevant.
What is terrorism?
Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) (the Criminal Code), a ‘terrorist act’ is an act, or a threat to commit an act, that:
- causes death or serious harm, or endangers a person, causes serious damage to property, causes a serious risk to the health or safety of the public, or seriously interferes with critical infrastructure; and
- is done to advance a political, religious or ideological cause; and
- is done with the intention to coerce or influence by intimidation the government or public (including a section of the public) of any country or of a part of a country.
A terrorist act does not cover engaging in advocacy, protest, dissent or industrial action where there is no intention to cause harm to others.
If found guilty of committing a terrorist act, a person could face up to life imprisonment.
The Criminal Code sets out a number of offences relating to terrorism. It is an offence to:
- commit a terrorist act
- plan or prepare for a terrorist act
- finance terrorism or a terrorist
- provide or receive training connected with terrorist acts
- possess things connected with terrorist acts
- collect or make documents likely to facilitate terrorist acts
- be a member of a terrorist organisation
- train with, fund, support or associate with a terrorist organisation. See
Terrorist organisations for more information.
The Criminal Code also sets out offences relating to people who fight for armed groups overseas. It is an offence to:
- enter, or make preparations to enter, a foreign country with the intent to engage in hostile activity
- enter, or remain in, a
current declared area.
Prevention and response
Australian Government agencies have a range of powers for investigating and responding to terrorism offences, including:
Crimes Act 1914 sets out police powers in relation to terrorist acts and terrorism offences.
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 allows ASIO to obtain warrants to conduct surveillance, and to detain and question people who may have information on terrorism-related activities.
Defence Act 1903 contains provisions that allow the Australian Defence Force to respond to terrorist incidents within Australia.
Listed terrorist organisations
The Government lists terrorist organisations for the purposes of the relevant offences in the Criminal Code. More information can be found at
The Government can declare an area in a foreign country where a terrorist organisation is active, in order to deter Australians from travelling there and putting themselves in harm’s way. More information can be found at
Current declared areas.