Lack of leadership on #RaiseTheAge disappointing, but nothing stopping ACT from acting: youth & community services

28 July 2020 Media release: The ACT’s youth, health, legal and community sector have condemned the failure of leadership shown by Attorneys-General across the country, who yesterday chose to leave 10-13 year old children behind bars, instead of committing to raising the age of criminal responsibility (#RaiseTheAge). 

The ACT’s youth, health, legal and community sector have re-issued the call for the ACT Government to show leadership and do the right thing by changing the laws here in the ACT. 

 
President of the ACT Law Society, Chris Donohue:

“We don’t have to wait for the other states and territories to do the right thing. The ACT Government could take action now, raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, and keep our children out of prison.”

Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation: 

“Criminalising any child, but especially those under the age of 14, has lifelong harmful consequences that not only introduces young people into a system which does not address any form of healing, but it also is not set up to work therapeutically nor in trauma informed ways. This can result in detrimental long-term negative effects expanding over a lifetime.” 

ACT Public Advocate and Children and Young People Commissioner, Jodie Griffiths-Cook: 

“The ACT is ideally placed to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years of age, given its early investment in restorative processes like family group conferencing, and its demonstrated commitment to justice reinvestment.”

ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell:
“As a Human Rights jurisdiction, the ACT has an international human rights obligation to uphold the Convention on the Rights of the Child and raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old. The longer we wait for this change, the more children will continue to be criminalised from the age of 10 years old. We cannot continue to delay action on a human rights failure that prevents children from accessing the alternative, diversionary supports they need now.”

CEO, Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT, Karly Warner:
“We’re disappointed by the lack of action at yesterday’s meeting of Attorneys-General, but that shouldn’t stop the ACT Government from leading on this issue. Every child deserves to be healthy and to reach their potential. With just the flick of a pen, the ACT Government could stop forcing kids into the quicksand of the criminal justice system and ensure kids thrive in community and culture.”

Australian Medical Association President, Dr Tony Bartone: 

“Forcing a child aged 10, 11, 12 or 13 years old into the criminal legal system has serious and often lifelong consequences. The AMA continues to call on state and territory governments to listen to the medical evidence and change the laws in their jurisdiction to keep very young children out of prison.” 

There is no need for the ACT to wait. The ACT could do the right thing and change the laws tomorrow to keep children under 14 years of age out of prison. 

Research by the Australia Institute, released to coincide with the meeting of Attorneys-General found: 

  • Almost 75% of Australians had no idea that children as young as 10 years old could be imprisoned in police and prison cells. 
  • When they found out, the majority supported raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old. 
  • The majority of Australians want governments to invest public money in social services, housing and family supports, not locking up children 

Full research here: https://changetherecord.org.au/raisetheage 

For general inquiries: Sophie Trevitt |  Change the Record  |   0431843095 

SPOKESPEOPLE: 

  • Aboriginal Legal Services NSW / ACT | 0427 346 017 |  media@alsnswact.org.au