UN Human rights session calls on Canberra to raise age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14

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Media Statement

21 January 2021 

UN Human rights session calls on Canberra to raise age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14

According to The Guardian today over 30 countries at a UN human rights session criticised Australia for not raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years – something experts say is linked to Australia’s high rates of incarceration of Indigenous children.

VACCA strongly advocates for raising the age of incarceration from 10 to 14, and that under no circumstances should a child under the age of 14 be incarcerated. Aboriginal children and young people are over-represented in all stages of the Youth Justice System, particularly in detention.

We know Aboriginal children are disproportionately disadvantaged by age of criminal responsibility. They are 16 times more likely to be involved in the justice system, and high rates of incarceration have a strong correlation with greater risk of ill health, substance abuse, complex health conditions and premature death.

"Australia should be ashamed of the human rights record against Aboriginal children and young people. Turning a blind eye and making excuses for systemic racism and the sustained institutional levers that are used against Aboriginal children is not leadership. I challenge the Prime Minister and any politician to spend a day in the same conditions that we force incarcerated children to live in and tell me it’s not cruel and inhumane," says VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett.

  • Raising the age needs to be accompanied with;
    • An Aboriginal self-determining justice system including investment in ACCOs to deliver youth justice programs and services
    • Therapeutic, trauma-informed responses focused on prevention and early intervention
    • Improved cultural safety and cultural competency in the justice system
    • Access to diversionary programs
    • Family centred approaches within family and justice support services

"We need to do more than criticise the government about their inaction on closing the gap between Aboriginal children and others. It’s time for all Australian’s to publicly challenge the government to set a date and raise the age in 2021" says Ms Bamblett.

 

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