Right now, under outdated laws, children as young as ten years old are being locked up in prison, and growing up away from their families, community and culture.
Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic), Victoria’s peak body for young people and the youth sector, is calling on the Council of Attorneys-General (COAG) and the Australian Government to raise the age of legal criminal responsibility from 10 years to 14. YACVic has made a joint submission with the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC), the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network (MYAN), and other state and territory-based youth peak bodies across Australia.
“Young people and children belong in schools and communities; they don’t belong in prison,” says Katherine Ellis, YACVic CEO.
“Raising the age of legal responsibility to 14 will protect children’s and young people’s rights, and ensure they receive the support and development they need. Punitive measures, and cutting their connections to family and community, are not the solution.
“Governments - federal, state and local - and the Australian community are collectively responsible for supporting children and young people to reach their potential.
“Almost 70% of children and young people in prison are victims of trauma, abuse and neglect, so the last thing these children need is to be stuck in prison.
“Governments should be investing more in youth workers and programs such as mentoring and mental health support, which evidence shows have better results in helping children and young people develop into positive and productive citizens.
Currently, each year in Australia, 600 children under 14 are being locked up in prison.
YACVic supports the calls of young people, social service organisations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups, medical and health experts, legal bodies and the United Nations for an end to depriving children of their human rights.
“Governments must raise the age of legal responsibility to 14 and stop jailing children,” says Ms Ellis.
“There are alternative responses for children and young people who have done something wrong that keep them with their families and communities; children who are diverted towards youth programs and group conferencing are half as less likely to re-offend than those who are in prison.
“By raising the age of legal responsibility to 14 and investing in their lives through youth services which get their lives back on track, rather than having children grow up in prison, we are supporting young people to reach their potential and creating safer communities.
“Our communities are safer when children and young people are engaged in education and employment, and are active, visible and valued in their communities.”
Media contact: Thomas Feng, YACVic Media and Communications Manager, 043128527. Katherine Ellis, YACVic CEO is available for further comment.
About Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic)
Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) is the peak body and leading 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.