Victoria University will bring its well-established expertise and experience in social inclusion and diversity research to partner in a new international think tank.
VU will lead a research stream focused on generating new knowledge on the dynamics of violent extremism and undertake an innovative work program on youth empowerment and activism.
With support from the Victorian Government, the Centre for Resilient and Inclusive Societies (CRIS), led by the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI), brings together researchers, industry partners and community leaders from educational and community organisations. Deakin University, Western Sydney University, Victoria University, Canada’s Dalhousie University, the Australian Multicultural Foundation, Centre for Multicultural Youth, the UK’s Institute for Strategic Dialogue and RAND Australia will all participate.
VU researchers Dr Debra Smith, Professor Ramón Spaaij, Dr Mario Peucker, Dr Alison Baker, Dr Muhammad Iqbal, Dr Teresa De Fazio and Associate Professor Christopher Sonn will draw on their leading work to increase evidence-based knowledge on the problems arising from social polarisation, racism and violent extremism within Victoria. Their work will develop action-orientated responses to strengthen Victoria’s vibrant multicultural society.
Analysing far-right extremism
The research program Dynamics of Violent Extremism, led by Dr Peucker, will analyse far-right extremism in Victoria and its interplay with radical left-wing movements. A particular focus will be on the reactive cycles of radicalisation and violence between opposing ideological groups.
Dr Peucker and Dr Smith are highly regarded academic experts on the far-right in Australia. They recently conducted a large study on the networks and mobilisation strategies of the far-right in Victoria and are regularly called on to provide evidence-based insights into the movement.
The youth empowerment and activism work program, led by Dr Alison Baker, draws on her extensive background working alongside community groups to co-design programs that enhance a sense of belonging and empowerment among young Victorians.
Dr Baker’s work focuses on finding innovative ways to challenge intolerance and racism at a local level and most recently has seen her working in youth programs with African young people in Melbourne’s west.
Role aligns with VU's cultural diversity strategy
The VU team will work closely with the prestigious London-based think tank, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD).
"VU is delighted to be collaborating with ISD,” said Dr Smith. “Both organisations bring a long track record of success in using creative risk-taking to deepen our understanding of complex social problems and develop innovative ways to respond.”
VU’s involvement with CRIS aligns well with its position as one of the most culturally diverse universities in Australia. VU has an all-of-university cultural diversity strategy designed to enrich the lives of students, staff and the community, connect the University as a community to scholarship and active citizenship, and celebrate the powerful benefits of cultural diversity.
“We are proud to be involved in this collaboration that not only builds on VU research in the important areas of social cohesion and cultural wellbeing and safety, but also reflects VU’s very ethos and its long-held mission of openness, inclusivity and respect for the rights of others,” said Professor Spaaij.
VU’s key role in the think tank is an important add to the VU’s strong research focus and expertise in the area of social inclusion and cohesion, community empowerment and challenges of all forms of violent extremism.