The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today joined organisations from the youth, legal, human rights and Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander sectors to call on the ACT Government to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14 years old.
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell, said: "ACTCOSS is proud to join with our partners including Change the Record, the ACT Human Rights Commission, Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services, Gugan Gulwan Aboriginal Youth Corporation and Canberra Community Law in sending this letter calling on the ACT Government to stop sending young children to prison.
"Australia has an international human rights obligation to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14. As a proud human rights jurisdiction, we call on the ACT Government to take the lead and meet this commitment.
"There is substantial medical and social research to support raising the age. Criminalising children under 14 years old is out of step with medical evidence on brain development. The current age of 10 years old increases the likelihood of poor life outcomes and sustained contact with the justice system.
"We cannot continue to criminalise children under 14 years old. Instead we should be offering early and alternative supports that respond to their needs.
"It is a community failure when children are involved with the criminal justice system and we must respond with community solutions. Our children do not belong in detention.
"ACTCOSS consulted widely on this issue earlier this year and has been engaged with other states and territories in the national campaign to #RaiseTheAge. There is a groundswell of support from the health, legal and community sectors to #RaiseTheAge.
"The ACT Government must act on this now. This is our moral and international human rights obligation.
"The ACT has led the way on many other major social changes. Now is the time for the ACT Government to lead the way on raising the age of criminal responsibility to prevent our children from going to prison," Dr Campbell said.
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.