Across Australia, the minimum age of criminal responsibility is 10 years. This means that children as young as 10 can be charged, convicted, and incarcerated for a criminal offence.
Exposing children and young people to the criminal justice system can have a significant impact on their neurological and social development and can result in life-long interactions with the justice system. By raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility, we can provide options for therapeutic and restorative care to reduce children and young people’s interaction with the criminal justice system, better meet the needs of these young children and their families and keep the Canberra community safe.
ANTaR ACT acknowledges the ACT Government’s national leadership in Raising the Age with the release of the report Review of the service system and implementation requirements for raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the Australian Capital Territory, released on 11th October 2021. This following an independent review the ACT Government commissioned in February 2021, headed by Emeritus Professor Morag McArthur, on the steps required to best support this major reform.
We very much welcome the release of the ACT Government’s commissioned review into current systems in place, implementation requirements for raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) to 14 years and provision of a roadmap to best support all young people to have purpose, connect and achieve success.
ANTaR ACT strives to be an advocacy organisation dedicated specifically to the rights – and overcoming the disadvantage – of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. As such we concur that the focus on strengthening families and their pathways to access quality housing, healthcare, education and services for their children is critical to ensuring that all children do not get trapped in the criminal justice system. Keeping children and the community safe means providing young people, in particular Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, with the wrap-around services they need to develop into law-abiding adults. Prison is not the place for them to get the help they require, and in fact it is likely to make things worse for the young person and their families.
Given the very high incarceration rate of First Nations adults in the ACT, it is imperative that the ACT government and community take action to close the gap in imprisonment rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and moreover to fully implement the roadmap to Raise the Age in the ACT.
ABC RN Drive – interview with Shane Rattenbury, ACT Attorney-General: What is needed in the ACT to support raising the age of criminal responsibility