The Greens will today introduce legislation in the Victorian Parliament to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years old.
Children should be cared for and protected, supported and guided to learn and grow, not charged, convicted and even imprisoned.
Yet, in parts of Australia, children as young as ten can be arrested, put through the court system and potentially locked up, even for minor legal missteps.
Criminalising children gives them a criminal identity and imprisonment has life-long effects on their mental health and development.
At a time when the Black Lives Matter movement is sweeping the country, we must finally put an end to the blatant systemic discrimination that sees First Nations children making up to 65 per cent of the young children behind bars around Australia.
Joining calls from groups as diverse as Change the Record, Amnesty Australia, NATSILS, the UN, the Law Council of Australia, and the Australian Medical Association to raise the age, the Greens will first-read their bill in the upper house today, with the intention of debating and voting on it later in the year.
The decision to raise the age of criminal responsibility rests with state and territory Attorneys-General, who last year chose not to raise it. Victoria should join the ACT in leading other states and territories to follow suit.
Comments attributable to Victorian Greens spokesperson for health and justice, Dr Tim Read:
“The medical evidence is clear: children’s brains are still developing at this age, giving us an opportunity to redirect a criminal trajectory for everyone’s benefit.
“Children need to be kept out of the criminal justice system for as long as possible, for their own good and for ours.
“Our bill would stop pushing kids as young as ten through the school-to-prison pipeline, ensuring they receive treatment and support instead.”
Comments attributable to Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe:
“Our babies deserve a childhood. We need to treat children as children, not as criminals.
“Criminalising children creates a vicious cycle of disadvantage and only deepens the racial injustice in this country.
“It doesn’t need to be like this. If we’re serious about establishing a Treaty in Victoria and other states, then you can’t keep locking up our children and call this good faith.”