This week, the Council of Attorneys-General decided not to raise the age of criminal responsibility. This is despite research from the Australia Institute and Change the Record that shows that most Australians agree children as young as 10 years old do not belong in prison, and that Australia’s age of criminal responsibility should be increased from 10 years old to the global median of 14 years old, or higher.
As the Victorian Government moves forward with its raft of legislative and strategic reforms in the youth justice space, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) urges it to take heed of the position of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee has asked Governments to acknowledge the scientific findings and increase the minimum age to at least 14 years, as well as fixing an age limit below which kids may not be detained, such as 16 years. The Committee noted that over 50 States parties have raised the minimum age following ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and that the most common minimum age of criminal responsibility internationally is 14.
In Australia 10 year old kids are still detained. During a pandemic. In locked down facilities, as we have seen in the past week in both the Parkville and Malmsbury Youth Detention Facilities. It is past time for us to catch up to the rest of the world, and close this shameful chapter.
Quotes attributable to Nerita Waight, CEO of Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service:
“I am deeply disappointed in the lack of leadership shown by the refusal at today’s Council of Attorneys-General meeting to take the necessary steps to make real, systemic change. The decision simply does not reflect what Australians want.
Australians have made it clear that they want some of the most vulnerable people in our community – our children – to be cared for, to be given opportunities rather than robbed of them. With the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in the criminal legal system and detention, the Governments have effectively turned their backs on improving the lot of Aboriginal kids and addressing the shameful inequalities we see in our system today.
You cannot claim to support the Black Lives Matter movement, if you don’t think little Black lives matter.
We urge the Victorian Government to turn this disappointing obstacle into an opportunity to go it alone and become leaders in Australia by committing to raising the age in Victoria to at least 14.”
Story source: Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service