Protesting the inaction of the governments, 48 organisations have publicly published their submissions to the Council of Attorneys-General working group on raising the age of criminal responsibility.

For two-and-a-half years, Federal and State Attorneys-General have delayed progress on raising the age from 10-years-old.

The United Nations has benchmarked 14-years-old as the minimum age of criminal responsibility but the current age of criminal responsibility in Australia is 10-years-old.

Children as young as 10 can legally be arrested, strip-searched and detained in prison cells.

All 48 submissions to the Council working group call for the age to be raised to 14.

Over 90 per cent of the submissions note Australia’s breach of international human rights law and 96 per cent connect the current age as a factor contributing to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in detention.

“Dozens and dozens of submissions made by legal, health and youth experts have been hidden and ignored by Attorneys-General for over a year, as they have sat and done nothing while our children languish in prisons,” said Change the Record Co-Chair Cheryl Axleby.

“The evidence is clear — 10-year-old children belong with their families, not in prison cells.”

“I can only assume that State and Territory Attorneys-General have refused to publish these submissions because they lack the political courage to act.”

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (NATSILS) Chair Priscilla Atkins agreed, saying no child belongs in prison and that governments can act now.

“Raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 is one action that Australian Governments can take right now that will have an immediate — and generational — impact to end the over-incarceration of First Nations kids and to give our kids a brighter future,” she said.

Alongside NATSILS, Youth Law Australia (YLA) has also published their submission.

The community legal centre described the current age of criminal responsibility as “systemic child abuse”.

“The age of criminal responsibility should be raised to at least 14 years, which would bring us in to line with the internationally acceptable minimum,” said YLA Senior Solicitor, Meredith Hagger.

“However, we think Australia can do even better than this, and we would like to see a higher minimum age for detention of young people.

“It needs to be remembered that this inaction is decades old, and that children’s rights advocates have been calling for this change for a very long time.”

Hagger said the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in the criminal justice system is a “national disgrace” and raises concerns regarding the harsh youth crime reforms in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

“We do not think these policies are in the best interests of children, or consistent with their rights,” she said.

“What is needed now is bipartisan commitment from Governments at all levels to raise the age. We would like to see courageous leadership on this issue from all major parties.”

“We also want to see a commitment to fully comply with and implement in Australia the recent recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child relating to children’s rights in the child justice system.”

The 48 organisations that publicly published their submission include:

  • Aboriginal Justice Caucus
  • Aboriginal Legal Service of WA Ltd
  • Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT
  • ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS)
  • ACT Human Rights Commission
  • Amnesty International Australia
  • Australian Lawyers Alliance
  • Australian Medical Association (AMA)
  • Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC)
  • Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare
  • Centre for Innovative Justice (CIJ)
  • Civil Liberties Australia (CLA)
  • Commission for Children and Young People Victoria (CCYP)
  • Councils of Social Service
  • Danila Dilba Health Service
  • Dr Holly Doel-Mackaway
  • Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic)
  • Human Rights Law Centre
  • Jesuit Social Services
  • Just Reinvest NSW
  • Knowmore
  • Law Council of Australia
  • Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
  • Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA)
  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS)
  • National Legal Aid
  • New South Wales Bar Association
  • Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS)
  • PeakCare Queensland
  • Public Health Association Australia
  • Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
  • Queensland Human Rights Commission
  • Red Cross
  • Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP)
  • Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP)
  • Save the Children
  • Social Reinvestment WA
  • The Law Society of New South Wales
  • The Shopfront Youth Legal Centre
  • Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA)
  • Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS)
  • Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS)
  • Whitelion Youth Advocacy Centre
  • Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia (YACWA)
  • Youthlaw
  • Youth Law Australia
  • Youth Network of Tasmania.

By Rachael Knowles