Image of stuffed teddies behind metal bars

ACT can lead Australia on key justice reform by raising the age

The Australian Capital Territory’s Legislative Assembly has an historic opportunity to make real, systemic change and lead the way on youth justice reform by raising the age of criminal responsibility.

The Councils of Attorneys-General last month voted to effectively delay raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 until 2021.

The ACT Legislative Assembly will vote on a motion on Thursday to lead Australia in bringing the country in line with international standards.

Amnesty International Australia campaigner, Joel Clark said:

“Kids should not be in jail. All the evidence and advice from the experts says that locking kids up does them harm, but keeping them out of the criminal justice system prepares them to live healthy and happy lives,”

“The ACT has the chance to lead Australia in correcting the record and keeping kids as young as 10 out of jail. The longer jurisdictions wait, the longer little kids are exposed to the harmful conditions of prison. By raising the age of criminal responsibility, the government would be moving to change the lives of kids who need extra support and bring pressure on the other states and territory who continue to flout international best practice.

“We call on the ACT’s Legislative Assembly to show leadership on this issue and urge MLAs to vote on making real and systemic change for Indigenous people for generations to come. This is an opportunity to lead the country by doing what the Council of Attorneys-General should have done, and to give kids a chance to live happy, healthy lives”.

Amnesty International Australia has been campaigning for all governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility since 2015. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued General Comment 24 in 2019, which encouraged states to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14.