Raise the Age

Raise the Age

Did you know that kids in Australia as young as 10 years old can be put in prison? That means kids in Year 4. It’s called the minimum age of criminal responsibility. In most countries, it’s 14. The UN says it should not be younger than 12.

The age of criminal responsibility is in the power of both the Commonwealth (federal, or national) government and individual States and Territories. At the moment, children under 10 are considered to be too young to be held responsible for crimes. From 10 years old, children can be imprisoned for crimes if a court decides they knew what they were doing was wrong.

But doctors and lawyers say that children under 14 can’t be fully responsible, because even if they know they are doing something wrong, they can’t control themselves to stop doing it.

You can help by talking to grownups you know and letting them know that the kids in detention are not evil people, but just #KidsLikeUs. Also, you can write to the Premier or Chief Minister, and the Attorney-General in your State or Territory. You can also write to the Prime Minister and the federal Attorney-General, the Hon Christian Porter MP, because there are some federal crimes as well. Here are some letters that we have written.

The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister
The Hon Christian Porter MP, Attorney-General
Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600

Mr. Andrew Barr MLA, Chief Minister
Mr Gordon Ramsay MLA, Attorney-General
GPO Box 1020, Canberra, ACT 2601

New South Wales
Ms Gladys Berejiklian MP, Premier
Mr Mark Speakman MP, Attorney-General
Parliament House, 6 Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW 2000

Northern Territory
The Hon Michael Gunner, Chief Minister
(There is no Attorney-General yet as they just had an election)
GPO Box 3146, Darwin, NT 0801

The Hon Annastacia Palaszczuk, Premier
The Hon Yvette D’Ath, Attorney-General
cnr George and Alice Streets, Brisbane, QLD 4000

South Australia
The Hon Steven Marshall MP, Premier
The Hon Vickie Chapman MP, Attorney-General
GPO Box 572, Adelaide, SA 5001

The Hon Peter Gutwein, Premier
The Hon Elise Archer, Attorney-General
Parliament House, Hobart, TAS 7000

The Hon Daniel Andrews MP, Premier
The Hon Jill Hennessy MP, Attorney-General
Parliament House, Spring Street, East Melbourne, VIC 3002

Western Australia
The Hon Mark McGowan MLA, Premier
The Hon Robert Quigley MLA, Attorney-General
GPO Box A11, Perth, WA 6837

Raise the Age

Letters on Raising the Age

The ACT Legislative Assembly passed a motion on 20 August 2020 saying the ACT should raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, but that it would not happen until after the ACT election in October 2020.

Yassine wrote to the Chief Minister and the Attorney-General of the ACT to ask them to promise they would do it if they win the election and also to lobby other states and territories to do the same. The Attorney-General sent back a handwritten card promising to do it if they win the election.

Mr. Gordon Ramsay MLA
Australian Capital Territory

Dear Mr. Ramsay,

I wrote to Chief Minister Barr to ask if he could please try to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 or maybe even more than that because kids under 14 can’t really think ahead and stop themselves from doing dumb things. 

I turned 10 this year, and when I stole my dad’s new earphones and played with them, I knew I was doing something that was wrong, but I still did it. If I had done that at the Apple Store, and someone called the police, I could have been arrested. I was lucky, because it was just my dad’s, so I just got a big lecture and a grumpy dad. But some kids aren’t as lucky, but they’re still just kids like me

When I heard that the State and Territory Attorneys-General decided not to raise the age last month, I was really sad. I’m happy that the ACT Assembly agreed to raise the age if you win the election this year and I hope you will persuade all the other States and Territories to do it too.

Yours sincerely,

23 August 2020

Zari wrote to the leader of the Canberra Liberals (Alistair Coe) and the Shadow Attorney-General (Jeremy Hanson), because the Liberals voted against the motion, so if they win the ACT election, they might not do it.

Mr Jeremy Hanson CSC
Shadow Attorney-General
ACT Legislative Assembly
GPO Box 1020
Canberra ACT 2601

Dear Mr Hanson,

The ACT Assembly recently passed a motion to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years. The Canberra Liberals voted against it. Close to 600 children aged 10 to 13 are locked up in Australia each year. Around two thirds of these children are Indigenous. The Royal Australian College of Physicians says that kids this age aren’t mentally developed enough to understand what they are doing, even though they know it’s wrong. The Law Council of Australia also says that criminal punishments do not work on children. Children who go through the criminal justice system are much more likely to become criminals, and much less likely to get jobs. In the long term putting kids in prison makes society less safe. 

My sister is 10 years old right now and I don’t think she is capable of thinking through the consequences of something she does. If she’s angry or frustrated or even just bored, she may do something dumb and not think about the implications of what she’s doing. Probably, my sister will never end up coming into contact with the criminal justice system, because she is lucky and has a comfortable middle class life and family, with lots of attention. Rich middle class kids can also do bad things, but they will be able to afford good lawyers and support programs to keep them out of prison. The kids who do end up doing bad things are not bad kids. They are just kids like me and my sister and your kids.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child says the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be at least 14, and yet Australia is still putting 10 year olds in prison. Why are the Canberra Liberals supporting this?

Yours sincerely,
25 August 2020

Racism and Reconciliation

Interview with 2020 ACT Australian of the Year on Reconciliation

I am Zari’s sister Yassine, and I am 10. I went to a web meeting with the ACT Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and asked what kids should do to help Reconciliation in our community. Senator McCarthy said that we should talk to Indigenous people and raise awareness. So the next day, I talked to my friend, Jenna, who is from the Yorta Yorta tribe, about whether we should ask our principal if we could invite Katrina Fanning (2020 ACT Australian of the Year and chair of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body) to the school to talk about Reconciliation. I thought of Katrina because she was kind to me in the meeting. 

We wrote to the principal, but because of COVID – 19, he wouldn’t let her do an assembly. So we asked her if we could interview her on video and she said yes! Then we got our teachers to agree that we could get all the Year 5/6 kids to write down a question. Jenna and I spent a day in the holidays turning 150 questions into about 14 questions that made sense. 

In the end, she came to the school and we filmed it there. It was really a lot of work, but it was fun, because I did it with Jenna. 

I hope you like it. It is a public video, so you can send it to anyone you like if you think they are interested.