Save the Children Australia is encouraged by a report in The Australian newspaper today that Australia’s attorneys-general have been advised to raise the age of criminal responsibility to a minimum of 14 years.
Currently, the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Australia is 10 years old, which is out of line with all of the available evidence and international standards.
Executive Director of Australian Services, Matt Gardiner urged the nation’s attorneys-general to listen to the experts, adhere to the evidence and ensure Australia’s children are no longer sentenced to a life of disadvantage.
“Raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 is the minimum we must do to adequately protect children in Australia’s criminal justice system,” said Mr Gardiner.
“Setting the standard any younger than this is counter-productive to building safer communities and traps children in a cycle of crime and disadvantage from which many never escape.”
“All evidence shows locking up children under the age of 14 disproportionately harms those who are already disadvantaged, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.”
“On the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, this is not the time for half measures.”
Currently, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up 54 per cent of all juvenile detainees.
“We know what works, and it’s not locking up kids,” said Mr Gardiner.
“If we are really serious about addressing youth crime, we need to stop looking for loopholes to incarcerate children and start investing far more in early intervention.”
“We have the evidence; all we need is the political will to make the change in law.”
Save the Children runs preventive, early intervention and diversionary initiatives in every state in Australia and the Northern Territory.