We dream of a nation where all children receive love and care; where all children can learn and thrive in safe families and communities; where all children are supported to heal and to grow from the mistakes they make, and flourish as God intended.
Right now, in our nation, children as young as 10 are being arrested, charged, and imprisoned. Children as young as 10 can be strip searched and put before a court.
And it is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are being disproportionately impacted.
Australia has one of the lowest minimum ages of criminal responsibility in the world, well below the global average and internationally recommended age of 14. At 10 years old, our minimum age of criminal responsibility contravenes leading neurological and child development evidence and international human right standards.
It is separating children from their communities, inflicting deep and lasting wounds, and perpetuating cycles of injustice for First Nations young people.
In 2022, over half of all young people in detention on an average night were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, despite making up just 6% of the Australian population aged 10-17.
First Nations children are around 24 times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers.
These are harrowing statistics. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
There are better and proven ways to support children and break the cycle of incarceration; ways that keep children in their communities and connected to their cultures, that provide healing and that help children understand the consequences of their actions.
“That 10-year-olds can be incarcerated is an absolute disgrace. A 10-year-old is a child who is only in Year Three or Four at school. I think God must weep every time He sees it. I’m quite sure He does.” Aunty Dianne Langham, proud Boandik woman and an Anglican Reverend on Awabakal country (Newcastle, NSW). Aunty Di worked as a prison chaplain for more than 20 years, including nearly a decade spent working in children’s prisons.
Join us in 2023 as we work towards our vision of true justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by calling on our Government to lead a national approach to raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14, and to invest in justice responses that are led by our First nations communities, culturally-safe, and trauma responsive.
“For me, that is what ‘justice’ means. That we as First Nations peoples can have a voice that becomes our conduit to the government. So we can say, ‘Stop locking our 10-year-olds up. Think about different ways of doing it.’ And having that voice enshrined in the Constitution means whatever changes are made could not be wiped out by the next government.” Aunty Dianne Langham, proud Boandik woman and an Anglican Reverend on Awabakal country (Newcastle, NSW).
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Find further resources and information:
- Raise the Age
- Australian institute of health and welfare website
- 2020 Standing Council of Attorneys-General report
- Watch 'In my Blood it Runs' or read Dujuan’s story
- Australian Medical Association Statement
- Australian Human Rights Commission (Australia’s 3rd UPR) 2021
- The minimum age of criminal responsibility in Australia: a quick guide
- FactCheck: are first Australians the most imprisoned people on Earth?, The Conversation