Victoria will raise the age of criminal responsibility on a staggered timeline of 10 to 12 now, then to 14 in 2027.  This ignores clear health evidence and legal advice that 14 should be the bare minimum.1, 2

Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) urges the Victorian Government not to leave this urgent change to the next government’s term, and instead act now to raise the age to at least 14, with no police involvement and no carve-outs.

The limited change announced particularly fails Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, who are overrepresented in Victoria’s youth justice system.

Nationwide, over a third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children first came into contact with the justice system between the ages of 10-13, compared with 1 in 7 non-Indigenous children.3 Victoria should listen to Aboriginal communities and invest in community-focused solutions, as outlined in the Koorie Youth Council Ngaga-dji report.4

Earlier this year, Premier Daniel Andrews committed to raising the age even without national agreement, in the name of leadership.5 Instead, our state will lag behind international human rights standards and miss an opportunity to break a preventable cycle of trauma and harm.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recommends 14 years old as the absolute minimum age for incarceration, as “maturity and the capacity for abstract reasoning is still evolving in children aged 12 to 13 years”.1

The Victorian Government has also recognised children under 14 years old in the youth justice system are “often our most vulnerable and disadvantaged group”, with “complex and intersecting issues at much higher rates than young people who first come into contact with Youth Justice at an older age”.6 Many have experienced family violence, engagement with child protection, out-of-home care, trauma, interrupted education and unsafe housing.6, 7, 8

This disappointing outcome comes after years of legal, medical and community advocacy, including this month’s joint letter of which YACVic was a signatory.9

Instead of imprisoning children and increasing their likelihood of reoffending later in life, the government should raise the age to 14 and divert children from the youth justice system with evidence-based, early intervention wrap-around care.8

12-year-olds belong at school, not behind bars.

Sign the petition to #RaiseTheAge.

Media contact: Katia Pellicciotta (she/her), YACVic Media & Communications Coordinator on 9267 3744 or

About Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic)

Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) is the peak body and leading policy advocate for young people aged 12-25 and the youth sector in Victoria. Established in 1960, YACVic advocates for the rights of young people in Victoria to ensure they are active, visible and valued in their communities.


  1. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (2019, September 18). General comment No.24 (2019) on children’s rights in the child justice system.
  2. National Legal Aid (2020, February 28). Council of Attorneys-General – Age of Criminal Responsibility Working Group review.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022, March 31). Youth Justice in Australia 2020-21.
  4. Koorie Youth Council (2018). Ngaga-dji (Hear Me): young voices creating change for justice.
  5. Eddie, R. & Ilanbey, S. (2023, February 16). Victoria ‘lagging’ on justice reform, former advisory chair says.
  6. Department of Justice and Community Safety Victoria. (2020). Youth Justice Strategic Plan 2020-2030.
  7. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022, December 2). Young people under youth justice supervision and their interaction with the child protection system 2020-21.
  8. Sentencing Advisory Council. (2016). Reoffending by Children and Young People in Victoria.
  9. Raise The Age. Health and medical experts call for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to at least 14.