November 20 is World Children's Day - a time to celebrate the rights, talents and achievements of children.
It is also a time to reflect upon issues that have a direct impact on the welfare of children, and what needs to be done to address them.
The current age of criminal responsibility in Australia is 10 years, 4 years below the United Nations recommendation. This has been recognised as a key driver of the over-representation of Aboriginal children in the youth justice system - 78% of children aged 10-13 in detention are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
We believe that Aboriginal children should be supported through a child welfare, rather than a criminal justice approach.
A legislative decision to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years is one of the most effective ways to ensure Aboriginal children are diverted from the criminal justice system and are able to grow and develop in their families and communities.
Early intervention and prevention programs developed by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations need to be adequately resourced to meet the needs of Aboriginal children and families, before they become involved in the child welfare and justice systems.
In criminalising Aboriginal children, responsibility and resources are diverted into the justice system rather than being available for the cultural and welfare support required to allow Aboriginal children to grow up culturally strong and safe.