• There have been renewed calls for Australia to raise the age of criminal responsibility. (Wikipedia)Source: Wikipedia
The Australian Council of Attorneys-General are set to discuss raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10-years-old when they meet on Monday.
Keira Jenkins

25 Jul 2020 - 12:32 AM  UPDATED 25 Jul 2020 - 12:32 AM

There have been renewed calls for Australia to raise the age of criminal responsibility as the Council of Attorneys-General prepare to meet next week.

Actors, musicians and activists have taken to social media to encourage people to sign petitions and write to their local member, asking for Australia to raise the age of criminal responsibility, which currently sits at 10-years-old.

While organisations like the NSW/ACT Aboriginal Legal Service wrote to government officials to advocate for raising the age of criminal responsibility ahead of the Age of Criminal Responsibility Working Group Review being presented at Monday's meeting.

NSW/ACT Aboriginal Legal Service CEO Karly Warner said Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world on this issue, with countries like  Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Spain, Hungary, Italy, Germany, China and Russia not incarcerating children younger than 14 years old.

She told NITV News it's time to 'step up'.

"This is a critical opportunity for governments to listen to the evidence and to act on this issue," Ms Warner said.

"It's critical that we raise the age in all jurisdictions and I really hope that we hear this from the Council of Attorneys-General when they meet on Monday."

Ms Warner said Aboriginal children make up 65 per cent of the children under 14-years-old who are incarcerated.

"Aboriginal children as young as 10 are being targeted, taken into custody, at risk of being taken to a barbed wire facility, strip searched on entry, given limited access to peers, teachers, supports, and put in a concrete cell usually the size of a car parking spot," she said.

"Every child deserves to be healthy and reach their potential. In order to achieve this goal, more has to be done here to ensure that children receive the help and the support including access to things like better mental health care, mentoring, education and employment opportunities.

"I think the best way to give children the best possible chance is to support and build the capacity of our families, engage and support kids to stay in school and to just make sure that they have the things that are incredibly necessary; housing stability, identifying and responding to any health or disability needs."

Gugan Gulwan, Canberra's Aboriginal Youth Service, also signed the letter to the ACT government, saying it was a strong advocate of raising the age to 14-years-old.

"Criminalising any child, but especially those under the age of 14 has lifelong harmful consequences that not only introduces young people into a system which does not address any form of healing, but it also is not set up to work therapeutically nor in trauma informed ways," Gugan Gulwan's board of directors said in a statement.

"This can result in detrimental long-term negative effects expanding over a lifetime.

"Aboriginal young people and children are often carrying effects of intergenerational trauma, which history has informed us, cannot be addressed nor supported through incarceration. Investment in programs that address early intervention is key.

"Programs that address healing not just of the young person but for their families and the community needs to be prioritised.

"Funding bodies need to consider early intervention approaches, such as funding organisations to work in more holistic ways and support children and young people from the age of 0 -25."

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