Resources for understanding radicalisation vs violent extremism

Since Step Together started up in 2017, we have been focussed on the prevention of all types of extremism and has worked towards helping families, friends and community workers divert someone from an early interest in using violence for change.

However, an understanding of how radicalisation occurs is essential when helping to prevent violent extremism because the two are linked but aren’t one and the same. Violent extremism can be defined as a willingness to use unlawful violence, or support the use of unlawful violence by others, to promote a political, ideological or religious goal. There is a turning point where people who have become radicalised resort to violence to make sure their goals are achieved.

Radicalisation can be seen as the process of an individual or group no longer only believing in conventional or generally accepted ideas. Radicalisation happens when an individual or group comes to adopt extreme political, social, or religious views or ideals. There are many examples of these beliefs such as white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and anti-Islam, to name a few. And the list continues to grow from both the far right and far left wing spaces.

Radicalisation only becomes concerning when individuals begin advocating, threatening, or using violence to promote their goals or ideas. This can range from hate speech to violent attacks, to in rare cases the denial and rejection of basic human rights. The difference between radicalisation and violent extremism is that people can believe radical things or even promote radicalisation, but until violence becomes involved, it is only radicalisation. It becomes more dangerous and considered a threat to the community when it develops into violent extremism.

There are a number of reasons people become radicalised. So it’s safe to say there is no one size fits all profile of an extremist or radicalised person. The process of radicalisation can be viewed along a spectrum, as individuals go from being vulnerable to expressing some of these more extreme beliefs and essentially passive to being actively involved, be it non-violent or violent. The cause of this shift or turning point is a topic for debate and a current focus of academic research.

According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the way Australians use the internet has changed as COVID-19 related lockdowns and social distancing rapidly digitised the way we live, learn and work. Over the past 2 years, significant disruptions forced many of us to move our activities online, using different services and technologies. Research tells us that in Australia as of June 2022, 99% of adults have access to the internet and 93% have a home internet connection. This explains why the online radicalisation process has been a predominant feature of current research. Young people in particular are vulnerable to engaging with hateful narratives and are at risk of being recruited by extremist individuals and networks when online.

Step Together likes to help educate our clients and the broader public about extremism via our blogs, but are also promoted via Search Engine Marketing, and Facebook and Twitter.  This content educates readers on a range of extremist groups and their messaging. If you would like to learn more outside of these platforms, below is a collection of resources that attempt to explain how the radicalisation process occurs. These, among others, have been used to show how extremist interests (of all kinds) can impact society and the need for support networks and early intervention in preventing violent extremism.


  • Rabbit Hole tells the story of Caleb and his radicalisation via youtube to illustrate how online radicalisation occurs. 
  • Boys like me recounts the story of Alek Minassin and the catalyst for his radicalisation, which resulted in an act of violence in Toronto in 2018. 
  • In the Cave discusses the impact of social media on radicalisation and attempts to answer the common question; do these apps really drive their users to radicalisation?


Advice and support

If you would like further advice and support on how best to help someone you care about, contact our Step Together helpline workers.

Last updated:

18 Oct 2023

Was this content useful?
We will use your rating to help improve the site.
Please don't include personal or financial information here
Please don't include personal or financial information here

We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future. 

Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.

What's this? To leave this site quickly, click the 'Quick Exit' button. You will be taken to

Top Return to top of page Top