JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
Issued in partnership with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
Thursday 11 August, 2022
A petition calling for the age of legal responsibility to be raised to at least 14 will be delivered today to NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman, Labor representative Michael Daley MP, and Greens representative Sue Higginson MLC.
The petition demands an end to the practice of arresting, handcuffing, strip-searching and jailing children as young as 10. It has been signed by more than 63,000 NSW residents, lawyers and justice advocates.
“It’s basic decency and common sense that children need support, love and second chances – they belong in their homes, in schools and in playgrounds, not behind bars,” said Karly Warner, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited.
The Aboriginal Legal Service is presenting the petition to NSW parliamentarians alongside the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Both are among are a broad coalition of organisations who have been fighting to raise the age for over two years.
“The verdict from medical, legal and child development experts is clear: criminalising children causes lifelong harm,” said Jonathon Hunyor, CEO of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
“Locking up children fails our community. Kids need to learn from their mistakes, but imprisonment makes them more likely to drop out of school, develop mental illness, experience homelessness and end up back in prison.
“To build a safer community we need to stop making things worse,” Mr Hunyor said.
In March, a NSW budget estimates hearing revealed 293 children aged between 11 and 13 had spent time in custody in 2021. More than half of these children were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
“As part of its Closing the Gap commitments, the NSW Government has promised to reduce the rate of Aboriginal children and young people in detention by at least 30 per cent. Raising the age of legal responsibility to 14 would not only bring us in line with international standards, it would also bring NSW much closer to honouring this commitment,” Ms Warner said.
Nationally, more than 200,000 people have signed the #RaiseTheAge petition. As well as petition handovers in each state and territory, the national petition was presented to Commonwealth Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney last week.
Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT): Alyssa Robinson - [email protected] - 0427 346 017
Public Interest Advocacy Centre: Alastair Lawrie - [email protected] - 0478 739 280