The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has welcomed a call from the ACT Greens to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14 years old.
Dr Emma Campbell, ACTCOSS CEO, said: “Today the ACT Greens showed strong leadership on this important issue by recognising that the ACT must act to stop locking up children as young as 10 years old.
“It is a national shame that in every state and territory in Australia, young children can be sent to prison from the age of 10 years old. This flies in the face of the standards set by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that the minimum age should be at least 14.
“Last month, the Coalition of Australian Governments (COAG) failed to mutually agree that all states and territories should raise the age to 14. ACTCOSS was disappointed by this decision, but the work should not end here. As a jurisdiction with a Human Rights Act, the ACT has a human rights obligation to go it alone and raise the age.”
Dr Campbell continued: “It is a failure of our community when a child as young as 10 commits crime, and we should respond with community solutions. The justice system is not the right place to support the needs of vulnerable young children.
“Overwhelmingly, children who receive youth justice sentences have unmet needs such as trauma, family violence and psycho-social disability.
“Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children are also significantly overrepresented in youth justice. In the ACT, our First Nations kids are locked up in youth prisons at 8 times the rate of their non-Indigenous peers.
“Instead of spending money to lock children up, the ACT Government should increase funding to non-justice responses such as early childhood supports, functional family therapy, and restorative child protection investments.
“We welcome this announcement from the ACT Greens. ACTCOSS calls on ACT Labor and the Canberra Liberals to also commit to keeping young children out of prison.
“We also call on the ACT Greens to follow through on the #RaiseTheAge by ensuring it is a binding part of any agreement for joining a government,” Dr Campbell concluded.
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.
For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.