New statistics show urgency to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 to end Indigenous over-incarceration

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MEDIA RELEASENew statistics show urgency to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 to end Indigenous over-incarceration

10 May 2019

Change the Record says today’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Youth Justice in Australia 2017–18 report demonstrates the urgent need for Australia to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years of age.

“This research clearly demonstrates that raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 is necessary to end the over-incarceration of our children. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids aged 10-13 years old are coming into the system at rates that show serious systemic flaws when compared with non-Indigenous kids,” said Cheryl Axleby, co-chair of Change the Record.

Further, the report shows that while youth justice supervision continues to drop overall, the gap is broadening in the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

“Australia should be ashamed that the youth justice gap for our kids is widening. This is not surprising as there is no national justice target in Closing the Gap. We’ve continually called for national leadership to implement the solutions we've identified,” said Damian Griffins, co-chair of Change the Record.

The report found that 2 in 5 (39%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people under supervision in 2017–18 were first supervised when aged 10–13, compared with about 1 in 7 (15%) non-Indigenous young people.

“It’s just common sense that children should be in playgrounds and classrooms, not prisons. Laws that see children as young as ten behind bars are out of touch with common decency. Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world – it’s time our Government’s raised the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years so that children are given the opportunity to thrive, with their families and in their communities,” says Ruth Barson, Legal Director at Human Rights Law Centre.

Further, the research shows that 60% of children in prison are on remand. This occurs as a result of a denial of bail.

"The crisis of the over-representation of Indigenous children in the justice system continues. It is absolutely horrific that children are sitting behind bars unsentenced. There is no excuse for this - all governments must commit to Indigenous-led prevention and early intervention programs that will keep kids out prison in the first place,” said Rodney Dillon, Indigenous Rights Advisor at Amnesty International Australia.

“Most children are in prison on remand, and this is linked to the lack of public housing for Aboriginal people. Our children are being criminalised for being poor at alarming rates. Instead, the next government needs to free our future by providing adequate public housing and the wrap-around, Indigenous-run services that we know our kids need,” said Cheryl Axleby.

 

For media comment please contact Roxanne Moore, Change the Record Principal Advisor, at 0409 711 061 or roxanne@changetherecord.org.au.

Change the Record’s “Free Our Future: Don’t Punish Poverty” is a petition to end mass-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by fixing laws and policies that punish people living poverty.
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