#RaiseTheAge Public Hearing QLD Opening Statement

Common Grace's Opening Statement at the Community Support and Services Committee of the Queensland Parliament public hearing for the Criminal Law (Raising the Age of Responsibility) Amendment Bill 2021 held on 14 February 2022.

This is Common Grace's Opening Statement at the Community Support and Services Committee of the Queensland Parliament public hearing for the Criminal Law (Raising the Age of Responsibility) Amendment Bill 2021 held on 14 February 2022, given by CEO of Common Grace and Aboriginal Christian Leader Brooke Prentis. 

If you would like to watch the Public Hearing you can access the broadcast archive here and click on Community Support and Services Committee 14 February 2022. Our session commences at 3:48:00 and Common Grace’s opening statement is at 3:55:30. We recommend you also listen to Brett Nutley and Cooee's opening statement.

I announce myself as a Wakka Wakka woman and acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we meet, the Yuggera peoples and Turrabal peoples and Jagera peoples.  I pay my respects, and therefore, thank, the Elders past and present, for the way in which they refresh, revitalise, and maintain culture.  I thank the Elders for their work and their fight for equality, justice, and above all for love.  

I acknowledge the Aboriginal peoples here today and pay my respects to your Country, your Elders, and your families. And to the member for Cook, Ms Lui, I acknowledge you as a Torres Strait Islander woman.

I declare sovereignty has never been ceded.  

In 2013, 9 years ago, as an Aboriginal pastor and a Wakka Wakka woman I sat in front of a Queensland Parliamentary Committee regarding youth justice.  I was the only Aboriginal person to be part of the public hearing even though most of the children we are talking about are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.  

So today it is great to see the increase in Aboriginal representation at this public hearing.  However, there is still a long way to go, obviously especially in our Government Departments and Police Union.  And today I acknowledge Aunty Professor Boni Robertson at this table today, and Bianca Manning beside me as a younger Aboriginal Christian Leader, Gomeroi woman, and social worker who is working with Aboriginal children, young people, and families in Logan under the guidance of Senior Aboriginal Christian Leader, Aunty Jean Phillips.  

As an Aboriginal Christian Leader and the CEO of Common Grace I mainly work on education and faith in action with non-Indigenous Christians.  We are a movement of over 50,000 people pursuing Jesus and Justice.  We are led by Aboriginal Christian Leaders to pursue friendship and Reconciliation in our lifetime.  There can be no Reconciliation without truth and justice.

Many non-Indigenous Australians and Queenslanders are shocked when I tell them the age of criminal responsibility is 10 years of age.  Some don’t even know what ‘age of criminal responsibility’ means.  I tell them, Australia, and Queensland sends 10 year old children to prison.  Often they don’t believe me. But as Aboriginal peoples in these lands now called Australia and Queensland we know only too well the truth of what can happen to our precious children. 

In 2013, to that QLD Parliamentary Committee, I said these words and they still ring true today, 9 years later.

I sit before you today heartbroken. 

I sit before you today heartbroken that we have not achieved Reconciliation in these lands now called Australia.

I sit before you today heartbroken that Australia and Queensland has not succeeded in closing the gap and that Australian and Queensland have not made Indigenous poverty history. 

I sit before you today heartbroken for the Aboriginal families who have children in prison.  

Today, I add that I sit before you heartbroken at listening to Government Departments presenting information which is not our lived reality as Aboriginal peoples in the State of Queensland.

I sit before you heartbroken that our Aboriginal children and young people are indeed being arrested for shoplifting and for not having train fares.

I sit before you heartbroken our School Principals receive little if any cultural awareness training, and don’t know where to turn; that the Queensland Police Force receives little or no cultural awareness training, let alone anti-racism training; that Aboriginal organisations, Elders groups, and Aboriginal Christian Leaders, are not receiving adequate funding or any funding to be able to create the diversionary programs and early intervention programs we have been asking for for decandes and are capable of delivering.

As Christians and followers of Jesus, Jesus calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves.  That is all our neighbours, without distinction and without discrimination.  That is love, without distinction and without discrimination. 

Jesus has much to say about children.  In Matthew chapter 18 Jesus calls a little child to him and places the child amongst the people, and says:

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

Prisons, detention centres, and watch houses are not where our children should be welcomed.

In July 2020, the new closing the gap targets were released.  The week before the Attorney-General’s from every State and Territory met to raise the age of criminal responsibility. They said they needed another 12 months to consider raising the age.  Well it’s 19 months later.  We are tired of waiting.  

This should have been done 12 months ago, you can do this today. It is time. 

It is time non-Indigenous Australians took seriously the need to Close the Gap and the action they must take including enacting the Criminal Law (Raising the Age of Responsibility) Amendment Bill 2021.  

It is time for the precious children of Queensland to be loved instead of locked up.  

It is time for an Australia, and a Queensland, that I dream of, pray for, and need – an Australia and a Queensland built on truth, justice, love, and hope.

It is time - TODAY.    

And then tomorrow to get on to the essential work of fixing the public housing crisis, alleviating poverty, and providing culturally appropriate care to our precious children and their families.  

It is time today.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice