A coalition of over 20 service delivery, human rights, legal and representative organisations in the ACT have welcomed the community consultation undertaken by the ACT Government as a step towards fulfilling their commitment to Raise the Age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old, and keep extremely young children out of prison.
The community consultation on the ACT Government discussion paper comes after the nation marked one year since Attorneys-General nation-wide met to discuss raising the age, but failed to progress the vital reform. In that time, almost 500 children around the country have been incarcerated. The ACT Government has shown national leadership in progressing the reform despite national inaction. Many service providers, legal experts and community members have used the community consultation process to voice their support for raising the age and keeping children, and the community, safe.
Dr Justin Barker – Youth Coalition of the ACT:
“All of us want to live in safe and healthy communities. That means investing in the housing, health care, services and family supports that children and young people need to learn and grow, not ripping them out of our community and locking them away. Raising the Age of criminal responsibility is one step in the right direction to building the type of therapeudic and evidence-based service landscape that we need to keep kids and the community safe. We welcome this opportunity to share our expertise with the ACT Government about the types of services, programs and whole-of-government response needed to give every child the chance to thrive.”
Kim Davison, Executive Director, Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation:
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the ACT are too often arrested and hauled before the courts, instead of being given the support and services they need to thrive. Our kids are being removed from their families at horrendous rates which is a pipeline into the criminal legal system. We welcome this opportunity to support the ACT Government’s commitment to Raise the Age, and also call on the government to shift the focus of the child protection and criminal justice system to one that is strength-based, family-focused and trauma-informed. The Government needs to fund Aboriginal-led programs that can provide the therapeutic, wrap-around support our kids and families need when they’re struggling so they can get back on their feet.”
Elizabeth Carroll, President of the ACT Law Society:
“The ACT Law Society is pleased that our jurisdiction is leading the nation on this important issue, bringing us into line with United Nations standards and keeping children out of the prison system. We recognise that a great deal of work remains to be done to ensure alternative systems are in place to support the legislative change, and we welcome the opportunity to work with the ACT Government and other peak community bodies to overcome these challenges. In particular, the Law Society considers a multidisciplinary case management panel an appropriate approach to monitoring and providing support to children under the revised minimum age of criminal responsibility.”
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACT Council of Social Service:
“We need leadership on this crucial issue which is causing immense harm to the health, wellbeing and future of children. If diverted from the youth justice system, the needs of children under 14 can be addressed by appropriate services in youth homelessness, child protection, and mental health. Providing early and alternative supports to children and their families is likely to have better outcomes for the individual, their family and the wider community than engagement with the criminal justice system. ACTCOSS is proud to be based in the only jurisdiction in Australia that has recognised that children simply do not belong in prison. We applaud the work done by the ACT Government and Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury to progress this critical issue, and call on other jurisdictions to follow suit and take decisive, positive action.
Anna Whitty, CEO Northside Community Service:
“Northside Community Service has been a strong supporter of the “Raise the Age” campaign, which is seeking to have every State and Territory raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility around the country. Northside has a strong history of working with children and young people, and we accept the clear research and evidence that locking children as young as 10 up does not work. Being imprisoned only adds to the trauma experienced by children, and the effects of this trauma are felt for the rest of their lives. When a 10-year old is imprisoned – we have all failed. We join our partners in the community sector in calling for the rest of Australia to commit to raising the age.”
Will Mollison, Executive Officer, Families ACT:
“The evidence is very clear that any contact with the criminal justice system is both harmful, and counterproductive, for children and for the safety and wellbeing of the whole community. We strongly support the ACT Government’s decision to raise the age to 14 years old, and urge the government to invest in alternatives that are child-centred, family-focused, strength-based and trauma-informed. We know that the children who are coming to the attention of police and the criminal justice system have often experienced trauma, disadvantage and poor health themselves. This is our opportunity to move away from an outdated and ineffective law and order response to children, and instead build a services safety net that will support the most vulnerable children and families in our community:”