CAG should seize the opportunity to transform the lives of Indigenous kids by raising the age

The Councils of Attorneys-General (CAG), which is due to meet in July, has a unique opportunity to give hundreds of Indigenous kids back their childhoods, according to Amnesty International Australia’s new report, Raise the Age: Kids Belong in Community.

The report finds that although the overall number of children in detention has fallen, this is not true for Indigenous children who are still grossly overrepresented in youth detention.

“After last year committing to a working group to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, now is the time to act and, in line with all the evidence and advice from the experts, allow them to live healthy and happy lives,” Amnesty International Australia National Director Samantha Klintworth said.

“We understand the importance for COG to address the COVID-19 pandemic, but we don’t want to see the progress that Attorneys-General have already been made be derailed. It’s possible for the Attorneys-General to move quickly so Australia has a world’s best practice approach to youth justice, The longer they wait, the longer little kids are exposed to the harmful conditions of prison” Klintworth said.

Amnesty International Indigenous Rights Advisor Rodney Dillon said that there was no need for delay in raising the age.

“We’ve had so many inquiries and royal commissions, as well as heartbreaking stories from community it’s hard to understand what’s stopping our politicians from righting this historical wrong.

“We have the solutions – all the evidence shows that culturally appropriate, community-led justice reinvestment is a much more productive way to manage kids when they get into trouble.

“Condemning little kids as young as 10 to the justice system is not only a waste of money and time, but if precious young lives who deserve to be with their families, not in jail.”

Raise the Age: Kids Belong in Community reveals the devastating stories of families whose interaction with the justice system has had profound consequences.

Aunty Pat Ansell Dodds, Senior Arrernte and Anmatyerr woman and spokesperson for the Strong Grandmothers group of Central Australia said:

“The Strong Grandmothers group of Central Australia are very happy with the recommendations we have read in the Raise the Age: Kids Belong in Community Amnesty report. We must protect our children and keep them safe. We call on all governments to follow human rights laws and protect children.

“Governments should be supporting Aboriginal people in Australia and especially the NT where the majority of children incarcerated are Aboriginal.”