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Andrews Government must stop jailing 12 year old kids and #RaiseTheAge to at least 14

Keeping the age of criminal responsibility as low as 12 would be a cop-out and a failure by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes for the children locked up behind bars, and the children who will be exposed to the criminal legal system in the future.

Raising the age to 14 is the absolute bare minimum reform the Andrews Government must make. Anything less than 14 will continue to be an abject failure by the Andrews Government to uphold the human rights of children and young people in Victoria.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, health, legal, youth, community and human rights organisations call on Premier Andrews to act on the recommendations provided from numerous parliamentary inquiries, United Nations benchmarking, medical advice, and Aboriginal experts, and raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14.

No 12 year old child should grow up in prison.

12 and 13-year-olds should be finishing primary school and starting high school. They should be in our schoolyards and with their families, not locked up behind bars. Prison has devastating and lifelong impacts on children’s and young people’s health, development, mental health and wellbeing.

Evidence shows that the earlier a child is locked up in jail, the more the child is at risk of being entrenched in the justice system and re-offending later in life.

Instead of locking up kids in prison, Premier Andrews and the Victorian Government should fund community-led solutions which keep the community safe and has better outcomes for children.

Today’s decision is a betrayal of Victoria’s children, especially those who have been victims of poverty, violence and abuse.

As a campaign made up of 100+ organisations and over 65,700 Victorians, we will not stop demanding change until the Andrews Government takes action to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old.

Quotes from Cheryl Axleby, Co-Chair, Change the Record:  

“If the Victorian government announces an increase to the age of criminal responsibility to 12, it will not make any real difference to the already high and unacceptable rates of Aboriginal youth overrepresentation in the legal system. We advocate strongly that the Victorian government commit to raising the age to 14, particularly as the Federal government has committed $81.5 million to justice reinvestment. There is now no excuse whatsoever why all state and territory governments do not now support Aboriginal led designed and delivery of culturally responsive diversionary programs to break the intergenerational cycle of incarceration for our younger generations.”

Quotes from Nerita Waight, CEO of Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service:  

“The Premier said he had a responsibility to be the most progressive state when he spoke about raising the age of criminal responsibility earlier this year. If he does not raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old without exceptions, that’s not progressive or responsible.”

“Other jurisdictions in Australia have already made commitments to raise the age of criminal responsibility that are equal to, or better, than what is apparently being considered by the Premier. Victoria should be leading on this issue, not being dragged to a compromise no one wants or asked for.”

“Over 30 countries have an age of criminal responsibility that is 14 years or older. Those places don’t have greater issues with the behaviour of children, but they don’t put 10 year olds in prison and that is a good thing.”

“In recent years, the Premier has made a virtue of listening to experts. All the experts say that Victoria should raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old with no exceptions.”

Quotes from Amala Ramarathinam, Acting Managing Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre:  

“Daniel Andrews cannot call Victoria the most progressive state or territory in the country if the Victorian Government continues to lock 12 year old children behind bars. Children belong in playgrounds and schools, never in prisons and police cells.  

“For years the Andrews Government has been sitting idle on advice from medical experts, independent parliamentary inquiries and their own justice department that the age of criminal responsibility should be raised to at least 14 years. The minimum age of criminal responsibility must be at least 14 years, with no exceptions.  

“Anything less than 14, or with exceptions, will continue to be an abject failure by the Andrews Government to uphold the human rights of children and young people in Victoria.” 

Quotes from Anoushka Jeronimus, Youthlaw Program Director at WestJustice, Co-Convenor of Smart Justice for Young People:

“Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years old makes medical sense; public policy sense; and economic sense. It is a strong step forward in ensuring that children who are getting into trouble understand the impact of their behaviour whilst staying in school, getting healthy, getting a job, and reconnecting with their families. Anything less than 14, or with exceptions, ignores the evidence and risks further entrenching children experiencing serious disadvantage in the criminal justice system.

“Right now, Victoria has one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility in the developed world and we’re spending over $5,000 per child per day to keep them in jail. And jailing isn’t working. Imagine the impact we could make on children, their families, and our community if that money was spent on providing the education, well-being and family support needed to keep them out of trouble instead.”


State and territory Attorneys-General will meet on 28 April for the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG), marking five years since they first began investigating whether to raise the age of criminal responsibility. A report, which Attorneys-General delayed releasing for over two years, was finally made public last year and recommended raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 with no exceptions. 

60 Victorian organisations last week sent a joint letter calling on Premier Daniel Andrews and Attorney-General Jacyln Symes to commit to raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14, no younger, and with no exceptions. 

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