Dr Rose Cantali, a school psychologist who has developed a quick quiz for kids that can tell if they are in danger of being disengaged and or radicalised. Photo: Wolter Peeters WLP Dr Cantali believes her quiz would have raised flags about Jake Bilardi (centre) who went to Iraq and died as a suicide bomber. Photo: Supplied
It is a quick quiz for students that can identify if children are at risk of radicalisation.
The simple 35-minute test, which has been developed by a Sydney school psychologist, is designed to pinpoint early warning signs on the road to radicalisation.
Dr Rose Cantali, who has spent 12 years refining the quiz known as the “Getting Connected Scale” said it can pick-up when students are feeling disengaged, alienated, suffering an identity crisis or parental conflict, and allow schools to help and support the children long before they get into trouble.
Dr Cantali said that at least two if not three of those warning signs were relevant to Jake Bilardi, the Melbourne teenager who ran away to Iraq and is believed to have died as a suicide bomber.
“Jake was described by his family as not fitting in and isolated in many ways from family and friends. He sought refuge in Islam and apparently became radicalised watching IS propaganda online,” Dr Cantali said.
She said the test, which is the result of years of research particularly with Muslim boys, is aimed at year seven students and has already been used in pilot programs to successfully identify and help young people who had become disaffected. Dr Cantali said it it gives a very good insight into a child’s thinking and is easy and ready to roll out across schools.
Homeland security expert Dr Anthony Bergin from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said Dr Cantali’s work “should be given close attention by educational authorities as schools are now on the front line of countering violent extremism”.
Dr Bergin who has written extensively about the subject has said that teachers are often best placed to note changes of ideas and behaviour that may indicate that their students are being radicalised and in need of help.
“The blunt reality is that both federal and state governments are rarely in a position to observe early signals of radicalisation. It’s the teachers who have regular contact with young people,” he said.
Muslim community advocate Dr Jamal Rifi has also given his backing to the scale to assess disaffected youth.
Dr Rifi, a Belmore GP, has also suggested an early intervention model that can be accessed by anyone who may be concerned about a young person.
He told a meeting of the Australian Psychological Society last week that the model could be made up of trained professionals that can “diagnose” the problems with or without the child – in a confidential manner.
His proposed model would include a confidential telephone line and face to face appointments with a team armed with a core diagnostic criteria which could determine if the problem was urgent, needed the help of a psychiatrist or psychologist and whether there were religious or legal issues.
He believes it should be initially funded by government but act independently of both government and law enforcement.
Dr Cantali’s scale identifies 10 areas of competencies that students need to develop to feel positively connected to their schools and communities and the answers are assessed and scaled on three levels – students at risk of disengagement, those at risk of radicalisation and those who may be radicalising.
She said it is a very good indicator of whether kids – not just Muslim kids – but all kids are disengaged. She believes that is the first step to further problems and the scale can identify skills like anger management, self esteem, self regulation, depression and anxiety that need to be addressed
“We need to be responsible for our own youth. And schools need to come and embrace them and not push them away,” she said.
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