South Australian Activists outside Federal Minister Christopher Pyne's office with Amnesty banners and flags & posters calling for a National Plan of Action for Community is Everything campaign (Indigenous Youth Justice)

Raise the Age 2021 Toolkit

Every child deserves to spend their childhood growing and learning and thriving. In this country, every State and Territory Government is responsible for sending children as young as 10 to prison. That must stop now.

Amnesty has been working tirelessly on raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, and we have a very real opportunity to put pressure on our governments and demand that they act. We see what happens when children are sent into prison – they are traumatised, harmed, deprived of their childhoods and when they get out, there’s very little support to help them get back on their feet and so they’re increasingly likely to return into the vicious cycle that is the so-called justice system.

It’s our responsibility to fight for better for our children, it’s our responsibility to make sure that these babies get the support that they need and it’s our responsibility to demand that our decision-makers raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.

Maggie Munn – Gunggari person, Indigenous Rights Associate Campaigner.

What is Raise the Age?

With the ACT recently committing to raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years old, and with other signs of small steps forward in other some other states, we have a unique opportunity to keep the momentum going and push for other states and territories around the country to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.

Amnesty International Australia is working in partnership with Change the Record to pressure decision-makers to not only Raise the Age of criminal responsibility, but to ensure that it is raised to 14.

Research shows that at this age, children’s brains are still developing and they are not able to navigate criminal responsibility or understand the consequences of their behaviour. Locking up young kids robs them of a childhood and isolates them for society and their community during crucial years of development. This approach doesn’t lead to rehabilitation, in fact, it’s quite the opposite! Children who are arrested before the age of 14, are three times more likely to be criminalised as adults.

Check out our ‘Raise the Age: Kids belong in community’ report for more information about the issue.

Indigenous-led programs like Olabud Doogethu in Halls Creek are having great results. Kids who engage with these programs, and receive the support they need are more likely to thrive with stronger connections to identity, community and support structures.

Download an Action Summary

Theory of Change – How Do We Win?

1 – Your Local Actions

We need to change the conversation in the community around youth imprisonment.

Australians are growing increasingly supportive of raising the age and funding Indigenous-led programs that act as alternatives to prison and provide kids with what they actually need.

People have hosted film screenings, written to local media, contacted MPs, and more, leading to a visible demonstration of public support and solidarity with RTA campaigners.

2 Local Mobilisation

The more we mobilise, the more difference we can make.

Collective actions, including holding events, writing letters, signing petitions, sending tweets, and even talking to the media to raise awareness and make a difference.

Engaging the media on the issue of #RaisetheAge to shift the media narrative to be more supportive of community-led alternatives to prisons for young kids.

3 – Engage Decision-Makers

Politicians and decision-makers need to hear our message and see the level of public community support we’ve built to Raise the Age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.

Mail letters, call, email and visit your state MP, Attorney-General and Premier.

4 – Campaign Win

Kids chasing ball

By building strong and visible levels of community support and by shifting the narrative around youth imprisonment in the media, State and Territory governments around the country will recognise the need to focus on prevention, not detention. This can be changed by raising the age at which a child can be locked up to at least 14, and by committing funding for more Indigenous-led solutions and alternatives.

“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.”

Rodney Dillon, Indigenous Rights Advisor

Let’s Get To Work

Step 1 – Map Your Community

Make sure to find out which country you are on, who the Elders and Indigenous community leaders in your area are and about the history of the stolen land which you live, work, play and campaign on.

The better understanding you have of your community, the more people you can engage in the campaign and the more influence you’ll have on your state MP. Do some research on what matters to your local community and on how much your community currently supports raising the age from 10 to 14. It will be important to understand if there are already existing groups working on this campaign in your area, so you can collaborate with them.

Access our Skill Up Training Modules on how to map your community, and keep your eyes on the Activism Planner for any relevant training webinars we may run over the next few months. Create a plan to roll out your campaign locally – think about how you will create partnerships, engage with your community and engage with your state MP, Attorney-General and Premier. For some training resources and templates check out our Level 2 and 3 Skill Up Training Modules.

Step 2 – Become a Good Ally and Build Partnerships

Complete our ‘How to be a Genuine Ally’ training module, so you can build culturally sensitive and sustainable relationships with your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Keep your eyes peeled on the Activism Planner for any Ally Training webinars we may run over the next few months.

Do your research on the Indigenous organisations and communities in your area and think about the best way to approach and build relationships. You can access our ‘Partnerships and Community Mapping’ training module on our website here.

Please note: Indigenous communities, particularly remote communities, are living in crisis because of COVID impacts. Please think very carefully about asking them to do more right now.

Sensitively reach out to Indigenous organisations and community leaders in your area. Ask them what you can do to help support their work. If they are unable to engage in our campaign right now, make sure you inform them of what you’re doing. Relationships take time to build and work both ways.

Step 3 – Plan How to Change the Narrative in Your Community

  • Plan an event that raises awareness and helps change people’s mind on the issue of youth imprisonment. Consider how you would reach new audiences with this event.
  • Contact local media and write a Letter to the Editor for your local newspaper explaining why you think it’s crucial to Raise the Age from 10 to 14.

Step 4 – Build Visible Community Support

We have been building momentum on the campaign to Raise the Age for years. In order to win this campaign, we need to extend beyond our usual allies and show that there is support among a broad section of Australia. Our challenge is to get creative, reach out to new audiences and demonstrate visible public support to force our leaders to act.

Start planning for how you’re going to get your community to demonstrate visible wide-reaching support for raising the age from 10 to 14.

  • Organise a ‘Postcard Blitz’ with fellow activists and ask members of the community to fill in a postcard to send to their local MP.
  • Coordinate a ‘Bumper Sticker Blitz’ in your community with fellow activists, where you distribute bumper stickers to supportive individuals, businesses and organisations, and ask them to publicly display them.
  • Place signs, stickers and other promotions around your community to draw attention to the issue.
  • Pass around an offline petition to further demonstrate the importance to your community.

Step 5 – Demonstrate Your Community Power

Start planning how you’re going to let vital decision-makers know that there is strong community support for Raising the Age from 10 to 14.

  • Organise a meeting with your local MP with fellow activists at a peak moment in your grassroots campaign to let them know how supportive the community has been for Raising the Age from 10 to 14.
  • Research where your local MPs and important decision-makers are going to be, and turn up to ask them questions about their stance on Raising the Age from 10 to 14.

Key Dates

27 October 2021: International Children’s Day

31 October 2021: Incarceration Nation on SBS

26 January 2022: Invasion Day

P.S. We’ll be working towards a peak moment in October around International Children’s Day. You could consider this in your own grassroots campaign planning and potentially organise a peak moment in your plans in October as well. This will help amplify our message!

Host your own online event

Things are different this year with Covid-19, but hosting your own online event is one way to take part in Raise the Age and make a difference during these difficult times!

As always, please submit your event via the Host an Event page. Our supporter care team will be in contact with you and provide you with options for support.

Things to consider: Is this event for your action group? Or your local community? Depending on your audience, there might be different ways to approach your event.

Here’s some tips and tricks for hosting an engaging online event:

  • Preparation
    • Click here to learn more about the issue and why we need to raise the age of criminal liability from 10 to 14 years-old.
    • Click here to learn more about indigenous justice issues.
    • Sign and share the online petition to show your support for raising the age.
    • Send and share an online postcard about raising the age that will be sent to decision makers in your area.
  • Make a plan
    • Register your event through Amnesty’s online Host an event form.
    • Book and secure your entertainment, whether this is speakers, musicians, or any other amazing ideas you might come up with.
    • Schedule in a time for people to write a letter/sign the petition during or before/after the event.
  • For promotion
    • Our Activist Communications Team is here to support the promotion of your event. Fill out this brief and let them know the support you need.
  • Plan your tech
    • Here is our How-to-Zoom guide with all of the ins & outs of using Zoom.
  • Consider
    • Are you involving people from affected communities in organising this event? If so, it might be worth brushing up on the How to be a genuine ally training module.
    • Can you partner with other groups to host this event?
    • What will draw people to your event? Will it be an interesting speaker, discussion, or activity?
    • Who is your likely audience?
    • What format is best suited for the message you are trying to get across?
  • Before an Online Event
    • Revise the How-to-Zoom guide (or instructions of your chosen platform).
    • Prepare materials, notes or questions so you have them handy during the event.
    • Send your attendees reminder emails or post reminders in the Facebook event (1 day and 1 hour before the event). Make sure your attendees have the link to access the online event.
    • Test your camera, microphone, lighting, and backdrop.
    • Check your internet speed.
    • Do a full test run on the platform of your choosing.
    • Acknowledge country, welcome your audience and enjoy your time!
    • Have one person available to help attendees who are experiencing technical issues or have questions during the event (via chat, email or the Facebook event).

Host an in-person event

You can still run a Raise the Age event if you are allowed to run in-person events in your community! You can:

  • Hold smaller letter-writing events with friends and family.
  • Organise a film screening online and get attendees to write a letter before the screening starts.
  • The options are endless!

Let us know if you’re hosting an event, as we can provide extra support for you.

  • We can send you letters, petitions, t-shirts, pens and badges
  • We can provide you access to our professional QR code account so that you can set up your own trackable QR codes linked to the petitions you’re using
  • If you need help setting up a Zoom meeting/would like access to our professional account, just ask us.

Please just add these into the hosting an event form so the supporter care team can fulfill your resourcing requests.

This event template could be useful for you and your group when planning your event. You can follow the same steps as for an online event, just consider you will be running it in person, so you might need to think of other items such as venues. Follow this guide to make sure your event is COVID safe.

Use the media to get your message out

Reaching out to the media raises awareness of how your group is challenging injustice.

Send a media release

A media release is a relatively old-fashioned way to reach journalists in the most efficient way possible. Here is a template media release you can use, or you can generate your own. To write a media release, use the inverted pyramid – give all the important information in the first paragraph, and add details in subsequent paragraphs. You have to compete for the journalists’ attention, so you should always begin with what is new and with a headline.

Then you can send it to all the relevant media outlets and journalists in your area – TV, radio, online, and newspapers. Always copy in the general contact email address just in case. Send the release about a week before your event.

Follow up the release with a call a couple of days before the event (make sure your event doesn’t coincide with a major deadline for the media outlet). You may want to convince the journalist, in the nicest possible way, why the community would want to know about the event and what the journalist can capture at the event – they’ll want interviews, pictures, and video.

Write a letter to the editor

A letter to the editor of your local newspaper is a way for the paper to hear from its readers about issues in the community or the wider world. The key, as with the media release, is that you have to really compete for the editor’s attention, so you need to make the letter compelling. Here are some tips on how to write a compelling letter to the editor.

List your event

Listings are an extremely easy way to drum up interest in your event. There are a wide range of listing websites which give you free listings. You simply need a blurb about your event, all the details of how someone can be involved, and an image to go with it.

Let us know how it went!

  • Share your pictures and success via the National Facebook group for activists!
  • Let your local ALC know how you went, and fill in the feedback form, so we can continue to support your events to the best of our ability.
  • Send all your letters and petitions back to the Sydney action centre at: Amnesty International, Locked Bag 23, Broadway NSW 2007, and we’ll post them to the targets, or for solidarity letters to the case.

Useful resources

Check the Amnesty website for:

  • Campaigning for human rights can be difficult. Burnout and vicarious trauma can happen and it’s important to keep a look out for the signs in yourself and your friends. You can check out our Sustainable Activism & Self Care guide and workshop which you can find here. It examines how we can better take care of ourselves as activists and what you can do to make sure your activism is sustainable!
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