The Co-Chairs of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria have written to the Victorian Attorney-General calling for the government to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years of age in line with expert recommendations, saying Treaty must not be used as an excuse to stall reform.
Assembly Co-Chair and proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung nation, Marcus Stewart, said that raising the age is a reform that could happen right now, which would improve the lives of Aboriginal children who have been over-represented in Victoria’s prisons.
“10 year old kids should be able to share Christmas with their families at home. We’re sick of seeing our kids ripped away from their communities, only to be thrown into the quicksand of the criminal justice system,” said Mr Stewart.
Medical and legal experts say that the age of criminal responsibility should be 14 at the youngest, as children younger than 14 are still developing their capacity to assess risk, predict consequences or control impulses.
“We need government to stop targeting and locking up our kids. Raising the age of legal responsibility from 10 to at least 14 is something that can happen right now, the Government mustn’t hide behind its commitment to the Treaty process and use it as an excuse to stall reform, which would have a real impact on Aboriginal kids and their families and communities,” said Mr Stewart.
Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder and Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, Geraldine Atkinson, said that raising the age of criminal responsibility is strongly supported by First Peoples communities.
“The Victorian Government is leading the nation in listening to the voices of First Peoples. They need to continue to listen to us, we’re the experts on our own lives and communities. Locking up our kids helps nobody, it just piles on further harm and trauma. Incarcerating primary school aged kids is just wrong,” said Aunty Geri.