Last updated 3 March 2020

Division 101 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) (Criminal Code) includes serious criminal offences relating to terrorist acts. The basic offence is that of doing a terrorist act (s 101.1 Criminal Code), which is punishable by life imprisonment. However, in practice this offence has proved less important than a range of other offences relating to the preparatory and ancillary (i.e. related) activities. These include offences for:

  • providing or receiving training connected with terrorist acts (s 101.2)
  • possessing things connected with terrorist acts (s 101.4)
  • collecting or making documents likely to facilitate terrorist acts (s 101.5)
  • doing any other act in preparation for a terrorist act (s 101.6).

The last of these is punishable by life imprisonment. Several individuals have been successfully prosecuted for conspiracies to commit this offence, receiving sentences of up to 40 years imprisonment.

Another major category of offences relates to terrorist organisations. The Australian government maintains a list of terrorist organisations for this purpose. These are set out in Regulations made under the Criminal Code, and the list includes al-Qaeda, Islamic State and other known terrorist organisations. Alternatively, a court may decide that a group of individuals is a terrorist organisation if the group is ‘… directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act’.

The offences relating to terrorist organisations are:

  • directing the activities of a terrorist organisation (s 102.2)
  • membership of a terrorist organisation (s 102.3)
  • recruiting for a terrorist organisation (s 102.4)
  • training involving a terrorist organisation (s 102.5)
  • getting funds to or from a terrorist organisation (102.6)
  • providing support to a terrorist organisation (s 102.7)
  • associating with a terrorist organisation (s 102.8).

Exemptions to the last offence are available where the association is between family members for family or domestic purposes, or where it is for the purpose of religious worship, providing humanitarian aid or providing legal advice.

Other offences in the Criminal Code address the financing of terrorism (div 103) and using explosive or lethal devices for terrorist activities (div 72).