21 July 2022

We encourage the Council of Attorney Generals to ensure the age of criminal responsibility across Australia is in line with the rest of the world.

Close up of a young boy with brown hair wearing a white t-shirt.

While some states and territories have made positive progress towards changing the relevant legislation, other states and territories are yet to take any action. Australia’s minimum age of criminal responsibility lags behind the rest of the world, with the global median age being 14-years-old.

Chief Executive of Life Without Barriers, Claire Robbs, said it’s time Australia does better than putting children as young at 10-years-old in prison.

“Life Without Barriers joins calls to implore the Council of Attorneys-General to heed the deep concern held nationally and internationally about the need to bring the age of criminal responsibility to be at least in line with international human rights recommendations,” Ms Robbs said.

“Children under the age of 14 are minors in every other aspect of law and society.”

“We don’t expect them to be responsible enough to drive a car or vote, yet our legal system means children as young as 10-year-old can commit a crime and be placed in prison."

Despite recommendations to raise the age from Parliamentary Committees, Royal Commission Reports, and Police Commissioner Reports, states and territories such as New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and Northern Territory have still not taken action to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

However, there have been improvements in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, with motions to raise the age of incarceration having passed by both Governments.

“It’s fantastic to see some acknowledgements and work towards change underway in some of our states and territories, but there is still more work to do,” Ms Robbs said.

Life Without Barriers provides support to thousands of children in child protection and out-of-home care who are more likely to have interactions with the criminal justice system, despite already being one of the most vulnerable groups in society.

“The current age of incarceration is an alarming and serious problem, particularly for children in out-of-home care. That’s why Life Without Barriers is a long-standing supporter of the campaign to #RaiseTheAge of criminal responsibility to a minimum of 14 years,” Ms Robbs said.

Children who receive child protection services are nine times more likely to encounter the youth justice system, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 17 times more likely to be involved in both child protection and youth justice.

In 2019, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called on all countries, including Australia, to raise the age to 14.

“We know that incarcerating children does not work, nor does it reduce the rate or severity of future offending,” Ms Robbs said.

“Instead of imprisoning young children and punishing them through traditional measures, we need to do better and have services that are compassionate, adequately resourced and trauma-informed."

“We encourage Australians to sign the #raisetheage petition to demonstrate their expectations about how we treat children at risk of incarceration in this country.”

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Image: #Raisetheage logo

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