Children in detention an indictment of Australia: forum

Australian attorneys-general were urged to act to stop children as young as 10 from being incarcerated in juvenile detention.

A forum on raising the age of criminal responsibility heard that Australia should act quickly to stop the incarceration of children as young as 10 years of age.

The forum, hosted by the Human Rights Commission on 10 December 2019, International Human Rights Day was opened by the ACT Justice Minister, Shane Rattenbury MLA.

Dr Helen Watchirs, Human Rights Commission President and forum chair said: “Under ACT law, children as young as 10 years old can be charged, sentenced and imprisoned in Bimberi Youth Justice Centre.

“Since 2005, we have consistently advocated for the age of criminal responsibility in the ACT to be raised.”

President of the Law Council of Australia, Arthur Moses SC delivered the keynote address.

“Across the country there are around 600 children under the age of 14 in our prisons every year – and 10 of them are just 10 years old,” Mr Moses said.

“More than half have not even been sentenced yet. These are some of the most vulnerable children in society… They need help and the protection of society. 

“Instead they are being put into juvenile detention centres. This is an indictment on our nation.”

Children and Young People Commissioner, Jodie Griffiths-Cook then facilitated a panel discussion with Arthur Moses, Shahleena Musk from the Human Rights Law Centre, Simon Tatz from the Australian Medical Association (AMA), and Dr Justin Barker from the ACT Youth Coalition.

Read the full copy of Mr Moses speech.