• Indigenous Australians are overepresented in the prison population (sbs)Source: sbs
Following a major public campaign, the Council of Attorneys-General has not yet made a decision to raise Australia's age of criminal responsibility.
Shahni Wellington

27 Jul 2020 - 7:37 PM  UPDATED 27 Jul 2020 - 7:37 PM

Ten-year-old's will remain criminally culpable for the foreseeable future after a meeting held on Monday by the Council of Attorneys-General (CAG) aiming to review the controversial policy, has released a statement that said the council was still considering the issue.

It reads:

Participants noted the Working Group’s work to date and noted that the Working Group identified the need for further work to occur regarding the need for adequate processes and services for children who exhibit offending behaviour.

The minimum age of criminal responsibility in Australia is 10-years-old, meaning young children are able to be arrested, charged and detained.

In 2019, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended 14 years as the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

The Coalition of Attorneys-General agreed in 2018 to look into raising the age and established a working group to assess its viability. 

Following the meeting, NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the group is waiting on a final report expected in 2021. 

"When you have nine jurisdictions at CAG you could have nine different responses, so I don't know whether there will be a consensus, but a decision will be made one way or other," Mr Speakman said.

Widespread calls to 'raise the age'

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) has labelled the delay a "failure."

Narungga woman and co-chair of NATSILS, Cheryl Axelby, said the body will continue to advocate to raise the age. 

“If governments were serious about ending the mass imprisonment of our people, then they should have taken this straight-forward step today to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 years old to 14. 

“We are deeply disappointed in the lack of leadership shown by Attorneys-General today, but this campaign is not over.

"First Nations people have been fighting for justice for a long time, and we know we have the support of the majority of Australians who understand that prison is no place for a child,” Ms Axelby said in a statement.

It comes after a campaign pushed for public support to 'raise the age' of criminal responsibility.

The policy disproportionately affects Indigenous children, with more than 60 per cent of the 600 children aged 10 to 13 in detention from 2018-19 being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. 

An online petition by Change the Record, a national Aboriginal-led justice coalition, received more than 135,000 signatures rallying for the Council of Attorneys-General to raise the age.

People were also encouraged to post photos online of themselves at 10 years old to illustrate the reality of child incarceration.