The national Raise the Age coalition of medical, legal, Aboriginal-led and human rights organisations today congratulated the new ACT Labor-Greens Government on its historic commitment to change the law in the ACT and raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
State and territory Attorneys-General delayed making a decision to raise the age when they met on 29 July 2020 despite the overwhelming medical consensus that locking away children as young as 10 can do irreparable, lifelong damage to their mental health and cognitive development.
The ACT’s Parliamentary Agreement commitment to Raise the Age is an example to all states and territories that there is nothing stopping them from acting in the best interests of children and the community, and raising the age tomorrow.
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services Co-Chair, Nerita Waight:
“NATSILS welcomes ACT committing to Raising The Age. We commend everyone in our communities who fought hard for this through sharing their stories, signing petitions, calling their local politicians and demanding dignity for our children. The UN has recommended Australia does not imprison kids under 16, and we are lagging behind the rest of the world. While ACT leads the way we urge every state and territory to follow their lead.”
Human Rights Law Centre, Legal Director, Ruth Barson:
“Children across Australia should be in schools and playgrounds, not prison cells. As the ACT Government shows leadership and moves closer to raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility, every other state and territory government must follow suit and change their laws so that children are no longer hauled before courts and locked away in jails”.
Change the Record, Executive Officer, Sophie Trevitt:
“Every day a child spends behind bars causes them harm. We hope the ACT Government’s commitment to change the law and raise the age will be an example to all the other states and territories. Governments listened to the medical experts during the Covid-19 pandemic and saved countless lives. Now we must listen to the medical experts from the Australian Medical Association, Public Health Association of Australia, Royal Australian College of Physicians and the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association who have called for an end to the criminalisation and incarceration of young children.”
Amnesty International Australia, Indigenous Rights Lead, Nolan Hunter:
“All states and territories must work to keep children out of the quicksand of the youth justice system. Raising the age is a huge step towards doing this. We all know in our hearts that it’s wrong to lock little kids up, especially when all the evidence shows that diversion and justice reinvestment is what actually prevents youth offending.”
Public Health Association of Australia CEO, Terry Slevin:
“The PHAA welcomes the commitment by the ACT Government to raise the age of criminal responsibility – it is a really important step towards preventing significant physical and mental health impacts in children and adolescents who are incarcerated early in life. We strongly urge all states and territories to raise the age to 14 years – it is a move based on evidence and in line with international recommendations.”