The Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, has written an open letter to the Victorian Attorney General urging the Labor Government to urgently raise the age of criminal responsibility in the state to at least 14 years.
“This time last year we wrote to the Government and said this reform doesn’t need to wait and should not wait for formal Treaty negotiations to begin. I’m bitterly disappointed that there’s been no movement, so the Government is now on notice. Our children will not be used as bargaining chips, this reform needs to happen and it needs to happen now,” said Aunty Geraldine.
Whilst acknowledging the significant progress made on establishing a clear pathway to Treaty-making, the letter makes the Assembly’s frustration abundantly clear and demands the Government bring Victorian practices in line with international human rights law.
“Ten years old, that’s so young. It’s like a baby to me. Our children need love and a helping hand, not to be thrown into concrete cells. What will be the point of Treaty without our children? Our motivation for Treaty is to create a better future for our children, so raising the age is so clearly something that needs to happen and there’s no time like the present,” said Aunty Geraldine.
The Assembly has also submitted a written submission – on this and other youth justice and child removal related topics, to the Yoorrook Justice Commission ahead of Aunty Geraldine’s appearance at a hearing next week at the Commission.
“The solutions are all there on the table. Listen to our people, listen to the experts like the doctors and legal experts who are all explaining why the age of criminal responsibility needs to be raised to at least 14 years. No more excuses, there’s already lots of support in the parliament, let’s get it done,” said Aunty Geraldine.
A copy of the letter can be found here.
A copy of the Yoorrook submission can be found here. Aunty Geraldine’s appearance will be on Tuesday 13 December at 10am.
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