Tuesday, 23 July 2019
I, and also on behalf of Senator Dodson, move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that the age of criminal responsibility is currently set at 10 years old around Australia, meaning children as young as 10 are being charged, brought before courts, sentenced and imprisoned;
(b) acknowledges that:
(i) around 600 children below the age of 14 are locked up in youth detention centres each year and many hundreds more in adult prisons, and
(ii) the majority of these children are First Nations children;
(c) recognises that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recommends that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be at least 12 years; and
(d) calls on state, territory and federal governments across Australia to work together to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years, as a minimum.
The age of criminal responsibility is most fundamentally an issue of state law and is accordingly the present subject of a state-initiated process that's being conducted through the Council of Attorneys-General to review present laws and consider arguments for and against reform. The government will wait for the outcome of that review as the appropriate point in time to consider the issue further.
Labor co-sponsors this motion, acknowledging that across Australia the age of criminal responsibility for a child is 10 years of age. This is too low and impacts on First Nations communities and families, and it's devastating. The National Children's Commissioner recommended that the age be raised to at least 12. The Don Dale royal commission in the Northern Territory recommended increasing the age to 12. This is yet to be implemented. On 23 November 2018 the Council of Attorneys-General established a working group to review raising the age of criminal responsibility, with the requirement to report back in 12 months. The government must work with all jurisdictions to raise the age of criminal responsibility.