Thursday 9 June 2022
The Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) has welcomed the Tasmanian Government’s decision to stop locking up children under 14 and is calling on the NSW Government to commit to raising the age of legal responsibility to at least 14.
While Tasmania has announced moves to raise the minimum age of detention, we must also protect children under 14 from being arrested, handcuffed and dragged through court.
“Children belong in schools and playgrounds, not behind bars. They deserve the opportunity to learn, and yet kids as young as 10 are being subjected to the trauma of arrest and imprisonment,” said Karly Warner, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT).
In March, a NSW budget estimates hearing revealed 293 children aged between 11 and 13 had spent time behind bars in 2021. More than half of these children were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
“The NSW Government has made a commitment through Closing the Gap to reduce the rate of Aboriginal children and young people in detention. Raising the age of legal responsibility is an evidence-based path to honouring this commitment. Experts from the Australian Medical Association to the Law Society of NSW have backed raising the age,” Ms Warner said.
The Aboriginal Legal Service is also calling on the ACT Government to make progress on its commitment to raise the age of legal responsibility.
“The ACT Government showed great leadership by being the first in Australia to make this commitment, but now progress has stalled. Every day that politicians drag their feet is another day that kids as young as 10 can be exposed to the harm of detention, and we know this experience can set them on the wrong path for life,” Ms Warner said.
While the Tasmanian Government’s proposal to keep children under 14 out of detention is welcomed, Ms Warner noted this outcome would be better achieved by raising the age of legal responsibility.
“More has to be done to protect children. Keeping kids out of detention is one important step, but it doesn’t protect them from the broader harm caused by the criminal legal system.
“It is vital to raise the minimum age of legal responsibility to 14 at the very least, with no exceptions and no carve-outs.”
Media contact: Alyssa Robinson [email protected] 0427 346 017