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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/assessment-and-planning/assessments/specialist-topics/responding-to-concerns-involving-extremism-or-radicalisation/
Printed: 28/05/2023
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Last updated: 12/12/2022

Responding to concerns involving extremism or radicalisation

What we need to focus on when we respond to oranga, care, protection or youth justice concerns for tamariki or rangatahi who are or may be engaged with or connected to extremist or radical groups or ideology where violence or threats of violence feature.

Emerging area of practice

This is a child protection matter because tamariki harm to self and/or others requires us to respond. Adults connected to proscribed groups or indoctrinating tamariki or rangatahi to views that incite hatred and harm to others is also a child protection matter.

Tamariki and rangatahi spend significant amounts of time online. A small number have come to our notice for their online behaviour – for example, involvement in banned or proscribed extremist groups, viewing dangerous or objectionable material or making threats to bomb schools or carry out mass attacks.

Our work involves understanding for each tamaiti or rangatahi where belief and ideology shifts into threats or intent to act. For some, a youth justice response is required.

Oranga Tamariki is part of the group of agencies that respond to such threats or intent. He Aranga Ake, the national prevention and response strategy, sets out how we should:

  • treat people with respect and compassion, and not judge or belittle them
  • work with them to enhance their mana
  • encourage them to:
    • take personal responsibility
    • be accountable for their actions
    • develop a sense of citizenship
    • act with autonomy.

He Aranga Ake focuses on building and strengthening protective factors and promoting cross-agency tools and resources to guide our mahi.

While most people do not act on extreme views, we need to take all threats seriously. When we become aware of a real or potential act of radical or extremist violence by tamariki or rangatahi, we need to carefully record and share all information with our colleagues and work together on how to address this. Being radicalised or becoming radicalised is not a common situation – additional practice advice and support will be needed so contact the national practice advice team.
Email: practiceadvice@ot.govt.nz

What is extremism and radicalisation

Extremism is generally understood as a belief system underpinned by rigid and uncompromising beliefs outside the norms of community and society. For Aotearoa New Zealand, this might manifest in rejections of law, police and our elected parliament. Extremism can have different ideological underpinnings and manifest in a number of ways. Central to extremist belief systems is a desire to bring about change and overhaul the political, social or religious environment to conform to an idealised vision of society. Actions taken are designed to create the most fear and disruption.

Extreme ideologies can be based on faith, social or political beliefs that exist on the fringes of society, outside the more broadly accepted views and beliefs of most people. Violent extremists take these ideologies further and justify using violence to achieve radical changes.

Under Aotearoa New Zealand law, a terrorist act is defined as an ideologically, politically or religiously motivated act that is intended to intimidate a population, or to coerce or force the government to do or not to do certain things. A terrorist act could include acts causing death or serious bodily injury but isn’t limited to this. Aotearoa New Zealand does not currently have hate speech law – it is our work to understand when hate speech may indicate intent to act or to harm others.

It is important to understand that most people with extreme views do not act on these views through violence. The process through which an individual comes to see violence as a feasible tool to address their grievances is called radicalisation to violence. Radicalisation occurs through group connections and a sense of belonging. Vulnerability is an important consideration for social workers to hold in mind. We are seeing younger tamariki attracted to extremism, and research is pointing toward links between autism and social communication issues and attraction to extreme views. Views expressed in strong binary terms (‘us versus them’) or the use of dehumanising language are also indictors needing exploration. 

Aotearoa New Zealand has a growing problem of far-right extremism. Far-right views promote racial separatism or dominance by one group over others. We need to be attentive to neo-Nazi insignia and promotion of this ideology. Islamic extremism, religiously motivated hate groups and far-left extremism (such as environmentalism and animal rights, anti-capitalism) are less likely to manifest in violence in Aotearoa New Zealand but they will attract some tamariki and rangatahi to their cause and then potentially to links to proscribed or violent extremism groups. The internet means we are always internationally linked.

It is easy to find online groups that promote worrying and dangerous views and share illegal material. These websites can be attractive, exciting and enticing. Abhorrent material, sometimes described as gore, includes beheading videos, torture and other forms of grievous harm, and footage of dismembered bodies as a result of war, accident and injury. The sharing of these with tamariki or rangatahi or sharing between tamariki and rangatahi is a child protection concern because it is often classified as objectionable material.

Unintentional exposure easily happens, and gaming sites can be opportunities for this. For both intentional and unintentional exposure to objectionable material, we need to consider the trauma impacts.

Information sharing

Information sharing and intelligence are particularly important for this area of work. Each of the He Aranga Ake agencies has a unique role and remit, some having mandate to gain access to internet activity and online access. Where tamariki and rangatahi are involved (either as persons of interest, by virtue of residing with or having contact with a person of interest, or more generally as potential victims of violent extremism), Oranga Tamariki contributes views and actions that are focussed on the oranga (wellbeing) and best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family, whānau, hapū, iwi and family groups.

The He Aranga Ake agencies are:

  • Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children
  • Ministry of Social Development
  • Ministry of Heath
  • Ministry of Education
  • New Zealand Police
  • Ara Poutama Aotearoa Department of Corrections
  • New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS).

Although not included in He Aranga Ake at this stage, iwi and community organisations and professionals may be able to contribute to the mahi of disengagement – for example, by providing pro-social networks and opportunities to reconnect and develop a sense of self and community.

To understand and support a tamaiti or rangatahi who we believe is involved with extremism or radicalisation, we may need to:

  • share relevant information, including personal information, with other He Aranga Ake agencies
  • share relevant information with other agencies and individuals who may be able to provide support
  • request and receive relevant information from other agencies and individuals and use that information to achieve our role.

Sharing and using information within the child welfare and protection sector

In general, the most appropriate way to share and use information in this context will be through the information sharing provisions of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.

Section 66C of the Oranga Tamariki Act allows child welfare and protection agencies and independent persons (as defined in section 2) to share and use personal information for purposes related to the wellbeing and safety of tamariki. It is designed to put tamariki and whānau at the centre of decision-making and enable the right support and services to be provided to them.

Section 66C of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

Section 2 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

All He Aranga Ake agencies, except the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, can share and use information in reliance on section 66C. We need to confirm whether other agencies, iwi and community organisations, and professionals are covered before sharing information with them in reliance on this section. Our legal advisor can help. More comprehensive guidance is available on the Oranga Tamariki website and Practice Centre, including scenarios, quick reference cards and optional forms for requesting information.

Information sharing | orangatamariki.govt.nz

Policy: Sharing information

Sharing and using information outside the child welfare and protection sector

Where we need to share with or use information from agencies and individuals who are not covered by section 66C, we may be able to rely on:

  • one of the authorised disclosure grounds in the Privacy Act 2020 – we consult with our manager, supervisor or legal advisor, and we can also seek advice from the Privacy Team or National Office Legal Team
  • section 66 of the Oranga Tamariki Act, which allows Police and Oranga Tamariki to demand information for certain purposes – note, however, that information obtained under section 66:
    • must not be used for the purposes of investigating any offence, and
    • is not admissible in any proceedings other than proceedings under Part 2 of the Oranga Tamariki Act.

Due to these limitations, section 66 is unlikely to be used in the context of He Aranga Ake. 

Sharing and using information from NZSIS

NZSIS will share information with He Aranga Ake agencies, and we will use that information and share information with them, in reliance on one of the authorised grounds for disclosure in the Privacy Act 2020 (Information privacy principle 11). In this context, the most relevant grounds are likely to be:

  • the sharing is one of the reasons the information was collected (IPP 11(1)(a))
  • the sharing is necessary to avoid prejudice to the maintenance of the law, including the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution and punishment of offences (IPP 11(1)(e)(i))
  • the sharing is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to public health or safety or the life or health of an individual (IPP 11(1)(f).

We can seek advice on the application of these grounds from our manager, supervisor or legal advisor, or the Privacy Team or National Office Legal Team.

How to deal with classified information

Some information shared for the purposes of He Aranga Ake may have a New Zealand Government Security Classification, such as ‘In confidence’, ‘Restricted’ or higher. Care should be taken when considering sharing and recording classified information. We consult with our supervisor, manager or legal advisor if we are unsure about requesting, sharing or recording classified information.

Other considerations relevant to information sharing and privacy

Privacy is an ethical duty. Stigma easily follows unnecessary disclosures of information or sharing outside of the ethical framework of collaborative practice.

Code of ethics | Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW)

Some information must not be disclosed regardless of which legislation the information is requested under:

  • whakapapa should not be shared — this should be obtained directly from the whānau if they consent
  • information that is covered by legal professional privilege
  • documents that are the property of the court, including Family Court and Youth Court — if we are uncertain about these, we talk to Legal Services
  • youth justice and family group conference proceedings
  • information that relates to youth justice proceedings that resulted in a discharge of the charge under section 282 of the Oranga Tamariki Act.

Contact for additional advice and support

Being radicalised or becoming radicalised is not a common situation – additional practice advice and support will be needed so contact the national practice advice team.

Email: practiceadvice@ot.govt.nz