Master of Peace and Conflict Studies graduate Kosta Lucas plays a unique role in Australia’s response to extremist behaviour.
With a background in law, policy, research, and grassroots program development, he has a unique skill set that in 2013 saw him appointed Chief Program Director of People Against Violent Extremism – Australia’s first non-government countering violent extremism organisation founded by the Hon. Dr Anne Aly MP.
Today, Kosta is the Founder of SynqUp, a consultancy that helps communities prevent and counter violent terrorism through the use of creative media and arts, communications, and conflict resolution.
Kosta works with a range of public and private organisations including Google, Youtube, the Australian Multicultural Foundation, and government departments, to create greater community awareness around the myriad of factors that contribute to violent extremism in Australia and abroad.
I started a consultancy because from a very young age I had my own vision of how I would like to help society and influence change. My way of doing that is to be flexible and adaptable and I have that freedom working for myself.
It’s been a busy year for Kosta, who graduated with a Master of Peace and Conflict Studies in 2020.
The alumnus is collaborating with Multicultural NSW on a project to develop a digital storytelling platform with survivors and victims of terrorism from Australia and New Zealand as well as being in the running for a United Nations project on interfaith youth leaders and counter narratives.
On top of this, he is also representing Australia in the Global Internet Counter Terrorism Fund’s Independent Advisory Committee.
His biggest career highlight to date is being invited as a delegate to the 2019 Global Internet Counter Terrorism Forum's Incident Response Workshop, hosted by Google in Wellington, New Zealand.
“It was an honour being part of such an important event that brought together experts from all over the world to reality test the crisis response protocols of social media companies like Google and Facebook,” he explains.
The 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack demonstrated the willingness and ability of extremists to spread harm beyond their own borders by streaming acts of terrorism on social media.
The tech companies are now working alongside counterterrorism practitioners like Kosta to ensure that doesn’t happen again.
Kosta attributes his growing success to the productive and ongoing working relationships he has cultivated with grassroots organisations and private industry that have an interest in making their communities resilient to destructive influences.
“Working with industry and local interest groups gives you the ability to see things from all sides, which is important when you are trying to get community pillars to ‘synq up’”, he says.
Being able to examine issues from various viewpoints is one of the benefits Kosta gained from the Master of Peace and Conflict Studies.
“The degree gave me a new way to understand concepts and ideas I took for granted, even in my own work in preventing and countering violent extremism,” says Kosta.
“The most obvious examples are concepts like ‘peace’ and ‘violence’. At face value, it’s easy to see them as opposites, but in reality, they are neither uniform nor binary.
“Violence is so much more than just physical actions that cause physical harm. Societies that are on the verge of collapse can be thought of as peaceful. The realities of each are complex and sometimes overwhelming.”
The option to complete the entire Peace and Conflict Studies degree via distance learning was a huge selling point for Kosta, who is based in Perth and has a demanding work schedule.
“Having that online option allowed me to complete a qualification I really value from my home state, where there isn’t a comparable degree,” he explains.
“It also gave me the flexibility to carve out class time, while taking on new work opportunities in between, which is extremely beneficial when you work for yourself.”
A postgraduate degree has also opened the door to international opportunities.
A Masters is usually a prerequisite for a lot of international roles, so having a Master in Peace and Conflict Studies in my field of work has been a real asset as it provides the skills to best understand and address underlying social conflict that can lead to extremist violence.
Asked what advice he would give to students starting out in a social justice degree, Kosta says: “Studying a social justice degree is a transformative experience not just professionally, but personally.
“The beauty is in the process, which will set you up to best create your own outcome.”