Raise the Age updates - where are we at and what's next

Our Raise the Age campaign is well underway.  Thanks for your efforts to date! Let’s keep up the pressure on our state and territory governments to let them know that we want our governments to do better than placing our kids behind bars. You can check out how you can take action on our Resources page.

Check out our latest report The sky is the limit: Keeping young children out of prison by raising the age of criminal responsibility. It’s a summary of the legal, medical and human rights evidence for raising the age kids can be locked up to at least 14 years old. Print it out and take a copy along to your group meeting so you can get your head around the issue for your community activities.

The recommendations are for all state, territory and federal governments to:

1.Immediately raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old, with
no limitations for children under this age, and transition all children out of prison
within a year.

2. Provide funding for psychologists to train and undertake neurocognitive testing
for children who display risk factors for future offending when in contact with
police, doctors or schools. Ensure that adequate funding is also available for
testing and treatment of other health factors which contribute to interaction
with the justice system, like ear disease, and that therapeutic, age-appropriate
health services to address the issues faced by the child are provided.

3. Increase the allocation of funding to Indigenous community-led and controlled
organisations, within existing budgets, to support culturally appropriate, place-based,
Indigenous designed and led preventative programs to address the needs
of children under 14 years at risk of entering the justice system.7 This funding
should be allocated to Indigenous-led organisations and programs in proportion
to the over-representation of Indigenous kids in the justice system

What’s coming up?

We now know that the Northern Territory have plans to roll out some changes shortly, which may include raising the age of criminality and changes to the bail program. This will be a positive step for the kids in the territory. However, Australia is still lagging behind the international standards, including the Convention on the Rights of a Child, which set the age at 14 for locking up kids.

Scientific evidence shows that kids under 14 don’t yet have the brain development to fully comprehend the consequences of their actions. Over the past months we have met with many experts in Indigenous health, education and justice who have also shared with us that kids in Aboriginal communities suffer from untreated ear infections and impaired hearing, at almost 3 times the rate of non-Indigenous kids, which impacts on their ability to hear and concentrate in classrooms. This leads to difficulty hearing the teacher, understanding instructions and keeping up with their peers in the classroom.  boredom and frustration and acting out. We’ve heard stories of these kids being suspended or expelled from the education system which often forces in them into the quicksand of the justice system.

The numbers of kids locked up  who suffer from neurocognitive impairments, including from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder  (FASD) are shocking and high. A study of the WA Children’s prison found that 9 out of 10 had a neuro-cognitive impairment and 3 out of 10 had FASD. These kids should be cared for by our health and disability system, not being locked up in our justice system.

Right now our main push is on Queensland Government because right now the Government is drafting it’s new Youth Justice strategy and it’s critical that raising the age form a corner piece of this new approach. We hope that the Queensland Government agreeing to raise the age to at least 14 will set a national standard and make it easier for activist in other states to win the same reform.  

For our Queensland action groups, activists and supporters we are sending out an email today asking you to phone your MP to call on them to support #Raise the Age.  And if you live in Bulimba and Redcliffe electorates we are arranging letter-boxing sessions in the coming weeks. If you have 30 minutes and can help us pop flyers in letter boxes in either electorate get in touch with Tracey.Foley@amnesty.org.au to let us know.

We will be in touch soon to give you more info, but regardless of what state or territory you are in keep collecting signatures on our petitions, keep having conversations in your community. We can win this, but we’re not there yet. Let’s raise our voices for the future of our kids and our communities.



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