Amnesty International Australia today welcomed an independent review into raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 in the Australian Capital Territory, saying it outlines a clear pathway for other Australian jurisdictions to act on this essential reform.
The ACT is the first Australian jurisdiction to commit to raising the age – a reform which is not only long overdue, but is also widely supported by the community.
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 fourteen.
“It’s wrong to lock up any 10 year old, but we know that this legislation is racist in application because the majority of children in prison in Australia are Indigenous,” Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights campaigner, Maggie Munn said.
“Raising the age will allow kids to be free of the quicksand of the criminal justice system and allow them to grow up happy and healthy, which is what any child deserves.
“The Federal Government has failed to show leadership on this issue, so it’s now up to the States and Territories to step up. This review puts paid to any suggestion that this is too difficult a change to make, so States and Territories can build on the ACT’s work to make it possible right around the country.”
Amnesty International Australia is calling for sustainably funded diversion programs to keep kids out of jail, and for all Federal, state and territory jurisdictions to line up with the rest of the rights respecting world, as mandated under the Children’s Convention, and raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14.