Our research explores new and emerging criminal and security threats

We critically examine government policy and strategy, particularly regarding the military, policing, cyber security, and organised crime, among other key issues.

Research areas

Our high-impact research is published in leading international academic and scholarly publications. We also directly engage with law enforcement, including agencies such as NSW and Victoria Police, the NSW Crime Commission and the Australian Institute of Professional Intelligence Officers.

Our research strengths include:

Researchers in this area pursue a range of different projects related to Indo-Pacific and global strategic trends.

These include the geopolitics of China’s rise; the role of the United States in Asia; the challenges and prospects for Taiwan’s emerging strategic position; the ‘soft power’ potential in Central and South Asia; terrorism and insurgency in Asia; nuclear proliferation; conflict on the Korean Peninsula; military modernisation, defence industry and “arms racing” in Asia; desertion in civil wars; and exploring the influence of strategic theory in Western defence decision-making.

Key staff

Research Projects and Outputs

Book by Dr Tom Waldman: Vicarious Warfare: American Strategy and the Illusion of War on the Cheap (Bristol University Press, 2021)

America has been at war for most of the 20th and 21st centuries and during that time has progressively moved towards a vicarious form of warfare, where key tasks are delegated to proxies, the military’s exposure to danger is limited, and special forces and covert instruments are on the increase. Important strategic decisions are taken with minimal scrutiny or public engagement. This compelling account charts the historical emergence of this distinctive tradition of war and explains the factors driving its contemporary prominence. It contrasts the tactical advantages of vicarious warfare with its hidden costs and potential to cause significant strategic harm.

Violent extremism is a willingness to use or support the use of violence to further political, social or ideological goals. It may include acts of terrorism, politically motivated violence, or communal violence. It manifests as a complex social, criminal and defence problem that is not easily defined. It is not open to straightforward policy formulation because it encompasses a very wide range of behaviours and context.

Countering violent extremism (CVE) involves a wide range of government and community responses, including law enforcement, intelligence, targeted intervention and support for community resilience.

The terrorism research program at Macquarie employs a range of academic skills and approaches from the humanities and social sciences to:

  1. determine the drivers of violent extremism domestically and nationally
  2. map the nature and effectiveness of CVE programs in Australia and abroad
  3. provide research into violent extremist narratives and counter narratives
  4. deliver policy advice on how best to support CT and CVE in Australia
  5. research emerging trends in terrorism such as the cyber domain.

Key staff

Funded projects

2017: Australia Awards grant for Bangladeshi Police Force training in CVE

Funding: DFAT Australia Awards - $235,000

This fellowship will contribute to the effective governance of the Bangladeshi police force through enhancing their institutional ability to proactively engage in countering violent extremism (CVE) and counter terrorism (CT) policy development and operations. Macquarie University is responding to a request from the Bangladeshi Police Staff College to assist them to build their conceptual understanding of the issues surrounding CVE, including Australian and global best practice in law enforcement responses to communities suffering from the pressures of radicalisation to extremism and violence.

2017: Evaluating cape CVE program against far-right extremism

Funding: All Together Now - $20,000

This program involves measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of the CVE Community Action for Preventing Extremism (CAPE) program run by All Together Now. This program works to undermine recruitment into far-right white nationalists groups.

2016: Understanding online violent extremism audiences

Funding: ARC Discovery Project - $285,000, for three years

This project’s aim is to develop an understanding of the influence of the internet on violent extremism, particularly how online messages are received and interpreted. It will have a significant impact on the development of measures to counter violent extremism by (1) addressing assumptions about the relationship between online violent extremist content and violent extremist behaviour and; (2) developing understanding of how violent extremist messaging is received and interpreted.

2015: Countering violent extremism in NSW

Funding: NSW Government / Multicultural NSW - $100,000

This project provides a review of NSW’s current CVE and social resilience architecture in order to undertake a gap analysis of current government and community programs and guide the expenditure of the State’s 2015-16 $4 million community CVE budget, directed by Multicultural NSW. It entails a community consultation process, and will provide a confidential Parliamentary report, as well as facilitated workshops on CVE partnerships in NSW.

2014: Australia’s countering violent extremism workshops

Funding from industry partners, i.e. Federal AGs, NSW Police, Multicultural NSW – $25,000

Building on a spirit of collaborative partnering to achieve practical CVE solutions, the Department, with Curtin and Massey Universities, hosted a two-day symposium in Sydney in September 2014. This Symposium was structured as a series of outcome-focused workshops providing the diverse CVE community with the opportunity to generate novel insight and solutions to the some of the most pressing challenges facing CVE, its approaches and strategies. Focused on securing tangible outcomes for all participants, the Symposium comprised five workshops, each addressing a pre-identified challenge/issue in the CVE realm. The outcomes of this event were published in a special CVE issue of the Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism. View the special CVE issue.

PHD students

  • Adrin Choubineh, ‘Modes of Radicalization among Sydney-Based Shiite’.
  • Muneer Hamaid, ‘The Role of Audiences in Interpreting Violent Extremist Messaging’.
  • Moinul Khan, ‘The Islamic Resurgence: Why Bangladesh is a Case Apart’.
  • Khuram Iqbal, ‘Evolution of Suicide Terrorism: A Case Study of Pakistan’.
  • Simon Henry, ‘An Investigation into the Australian Survivalist Subculture’.
  • Malkanthi Hettiarachchi, ‘Radicalisation and Deradicalisation: A Tamil Tiger Case Study’.

Select corporate partners

  • NSW Police
  • Federal Attorney General’s Department
  • Multicultural NSW
  • Hedaya Institute, Abu Dhabi
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • All Together Now

Our staff and fellows in the intelligence stream draw on both their professional experience and academic expertise to produce research that is relevant to both scholars and practitioners. Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of intelligence studies, our researchers work in disciplines across the social sciences and humanities, including anthropology, sociology, history, cognitive science, and computer science. We have a strong focus on the intelligence communities of the Five Eyes nations, but our regional expertise also extends to the Middle East, Europe, and the Indo-Asia-Pacific. While grounded in the study of national security, our focus on transferable methods and processes ensures our research is also relevant to other intelligence and investigative fields in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors.

Areas of interest

  • Intelligence management and organisation studies
  • Intelligence policy and reform
  • Cyber intelligence, including cyber espionage
  • Covert action, espionage, denial and deception
  • Information superiority and decision advantage
  • Workforce development and intelligence tradecraft
  • Critical intelligence studies and intelligence history

Key staff

Our research is focused on understanding how state and non-state actors use the cyber domain for crime, intelligence, surveillance and offensive action.  We examine the motivations, methods, techniques and behaviours of these actors.  We also consider countermeasures from public and private entities.

Areas of interest

  • Cyber conflict
  • Cyber espionage
  • Cyber threat Intelligence
  • Threat actor oriented cyber security strategy
  • Organised cyber crime groups
  • Digital Forensics
  • State offensive cyber capability
  • Cyber Deception
  • Open Source Intelligence

Key Staff

Key research projects

  • CiLab - Cyber intelligence Lab
  • Cyber deception and its integration into active cyber counterintelligence.
  • The Cyber Intelligence gap: The educational perspective.
  • Evolution of cognitive warfare and its effect on decision advantage and information superiority in light of specific instances of covert action and information operations including the Russian involvement in the 2016 US election campaign and its aftermath.
  • The prevalence of Online Child Sexual Abuse (OCSA) in Vietnam and measures to reduce its effect.  (PhD project)
  • Taking a target centric approach to intelligence collection and analysis of an adversary using the Bitcoin ecosystem for the purposes of Ransomware transactions.  (PhD Project)
  • Surveillance Capitalism:  Tactics of influence by the Social Media Giants.  (MRes project)

Criminology at Macquarie University explores the dynamic relationship between crime, criminal organisations and state actors. Our department has a critically focused research agenda that combines theoretical knowledge with innovative empirical research. We are particularly interested in new and emerging criminal threats and public policy responses from domestic and international policing agencies. The main themes with which staff are currently engaged are social finance, elite deviance, gender, police and crime control in Australia, the political economy of organised crime and its links to terrorism in the Asia Pacific and Latin American regions, and the internal governance of criminal organisations.

Key staff and Research Interests

  • Dr Rolando Ochoa
    • Organised Crime
    • Drug trafficking/policy
    • Trust, signaling and criminal governance
  • Dr Alex Simpson
    • Social harm (zemiology)
    • Gender and power
    • Social finance studies

Research projects and outputs

Non-financial costs of fraud

Together with the Commonwealth Fraud Prevention Centre and departmental fellow Mr Gary Gill, the criminology team is exploring the non-financial costs of fraud to its victims and their communities in Australia.

Youth recruitment into organised crime and terrorist organisations

This project looks at the recruitment of youth into radical or organised crime groups with special focus on the Australian context. The project is designed to aid government agencies in understanding how and why youth become involved in these groups and how to best prevent this. It is lead by Ms. Lise Waldek and involves Dr. Rolando Ochoa and Dr. Julian Droogan.

Forthcoming Book by Dr Alex Simpson: Harm Production and the Moral Dislocation of Finance. (Emerald)

This is a book about disconnection. Disconnection that gives vision to the City of London as an insulated social arena that, despite creating vast wealth and being the vanguard of the UK’s aspirational future, has made objects out of you and me. Building on Foucault’s teachings on finance and the ideological force of market competition, this ground-breaking book gives shape and form to how financial markets are sustained, managed and performed, and how they emerge and solidify within the shared cultural imagination and system of knowledge as a single, smooth, frictionless and coherent idea.”

Book by Dr. Rolando Ochoa: Intimate Crimes: Kidnapping, Gangs and Trust in Mexico City (2019, Oxford University Press)

Mexico has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world. Intimate Crimes outlines the history of kidnapping in Mexico City by constructing a narrative of this crime based on extensive qualitative research on gangs, policing and other crime-related policies. The book also analyses the effect of kidnapping - and crime more broadly - on how communities experience the city, as well as the strategies put in place by potential kidnapping victims to deal with the threat of being victimised. The book contributes to existing criminological literature on Mexico and Latin America and to broader topics on the rule of law, criminal gangs, policing and the impact of economic development on crime. It also builds on the existing literature on empirical work on trust and signalling, particularly as it relates to contexts of weak rule of law and low state protection.

Current PhD research projects

  • Mr Vince Hurley: Economics of Policing. Policing in the age of austerity.
  • Mr Mansoor Swat: Health Behind Bars: A Sociological Analysis of the Health of Inmates in the Prisons of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.
  • Ms Jaclyn Spicer: Organised Crime, Terrorism and Shifting Power Structures in Eurasia.
  • Ms Nhung Luong: The Investigation and Prosecution of Online Child Sexual Exploitation in Vietnam
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Last updated: 22 Jun 2022