A restorative approach to countering violent extremism

Ms Kerrie Sellen1

1Restorative Journeys, Adelaide, Australia

The radical changing world order has seen the emergence of violent extremism particularly with young people in Australia. Traditional law-enforcement strategies invariably fail because those most at risk of radicalisation aren’t generally known. An example being fifteen-year-old jihadi, Farhad (Khalil Mohammad) Jabar who gunned down Curtis Cheng outside NSW Police Headquarters at Parramatta on 2 October 2015.

Those most vulnerable to radicalisation experience social isolation and exclusion. They are often from minority groups who have come to Australia to avoid extreme violence themselves. Most young immigrants and refugees invariably struggle to identify with other young Australians and as a consequence are vulnerable to radicalisation. The challenge of responding to CVE is complex. It requires a multifaceted approach that seeks to build connections with individuals, families and the broader community.

Restorative Journeys has been contracted by the South Australian Government to design and implement processes capable of engaging those ‘at risk’ of radicalisation [and their families], as well as collaborating with those communities were radicalisation is most likely. We have developed an explicit restorative practice framework focusing on building relationships. This relational approach is built on understanding the ‘why’ and we rely upon restorative dialogue to provide the ‘how’ so that ‘what’ we do is intentional and purposeful.

We are currently working with families and school communities in order to establish environments conducive to respectful dialogue and inclusion. In particular we are looking to widen the ‘community of care’ of those identified at risk of radicalisation.


Kerrie has over twenty years’ experience in community services including Youth Justice, Homelessness, Domestic Violence, Drug and Alcohol, Case Management and Program Design & Delivery. She started her career with fifteen years in Youth Justice in South Australia. Since that time, Kerrie has established two large, not for profit youth services, both recognised for their strong staff culture and high levels of client and family engagement and outcomes.

Kerrie has transformed organisations using a deliberate and intentional restorative practice framework with staff as well as clients. This resulted in Kerrie’s organisation being recognised and published in Business Review Weekly as Australia’s 6th best workplace based on a vigorous study into workplace culture.

Kerrie has extensive experience working with diverse Australian communities, organisations and schools, including remote Aboriginal communities in SA and NT. Kerrie has also worked in Singapore where she presented a Keynote at the Lutheran Community Care Services (LCCS) Restorative Practice conference in November 2019. Kerrie also provided training to staff at Changi Prison, Singapore Girls home staff, Boys home staff and a range of other agencies. Kerrie is the Accredited Trainer in Australia for the International Institute of Restorative Practice.