Last week, an urgent call for the Australian government to 'Raise The Age' of criminal responsibility from 10 to the UN recommended age of 14 gained momentum ahead of a historic opportunity at the Council of Attorneys-General Meeting (held on July 27) to change the outdated law. Over 135,800 people signed a petition to keep children out of jail, ahead of the meeting on the matter.
Despite those calls, the decision was made to not #raisetheage of criminal liability for at least another year, with the nation's attorneys-general claiming more work was needed to determine alternative ways to deal with young offenders.
Many have since taken to social media to share their outrage.
Activist Nessa Turnbull Roberts wrote: "Yesterday the Australian government refused to raise the age of criminal responsibility, this means if you are 10 years old, you can be criminally liable and put into prison. Our juvenile justice detention centres are already full with children, in particular children being held on remand and not even convicted, however, these children are forced to rot in prison, subjected to psychological, emotional, spiritual and physical abuse.
"I have too many nieces & nephews to be complacent. I am for no child EVER being incarcerated. This is a deep reminder of the blood and leadership of this country. Even in the midst of a national black lives matter movement, we are again reminded that black lives DO NOT matter. Yes, the system already disproportionately impacts Indigenous people and yes we will see the impact of institutionalisation and harm this does to all our children and young people. This is a national disgrace on behalf of Australia.
"Black lives matter, black children matter and we will keep demanding justice and that their liberties and rights are taken seriously. Silence is a choice, and my village is loud, you’re welcome to stand with us."
Per the Sydney Morning Herald, there were almost 600 children aged 10 to 13 in detention in Australia last year, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children disproportionately impacted by these laws and pushed into prison cells at even higher rates, accounting for 65 per cent of these younger children in prisons.
“All Australian children deserve to grow up in safe and fair environments," Associate Professor Kris Rallah-Baker, President of the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association, said via the Raise The Age website. "For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children this includes having strong connections to family, culture and Country. Locking up Indigenous kids is traumatising and severely impacts their health and wellbeing. It is time to end the cycle of disadvantage by properly supporting communities and addressing laws and practices that unfairly impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids.”
While the law was not changed, the reasons why children as young as 10 should not be held criminally responsible remains the same.
Why Should The Age Be Raised?
- Given the high numbers of Indigenous children aged between 10-13 in the justice system, there have been proven dramatic and devastating impacts
- Per The Conversation, evidence shows children under 14 lack impulse control and have a poorly developed capacity to plan and foresee consequences
- A 2018 study found nine out of ten young people in Western Australian youth detention were severely impaired in at least one area of brain function
- Instead of putting kids this young behind bars, governments can fund Indigenous-led solutions and community programs which have better outcomes for children and communities.
Children belong in classrooms and playgrounds, not in handcuffs, courtrooms or prison cells.