Across Australia, children as young as 10 are charged, brought before a court, sentenced, and locked up behind bars. Kids belong in school, not prison.

Despite overwhelming evidence from health experts, social workers, Indigenous leaders, legal experts, and human rights organisations, Australian Governments are choosing to lock up children as young as 10 years old. Given the ongoing legacy of colonisation and its impact on the justice system, this disproportionately impacts First Nations children. (1)

When children this young are forced through a criminal legal process, their health, wellbeing, and future are put at risk. Punitive approaches simply don’t work, and we know this. Sending children to prison is not a solution.

First Nations communities have the solutions and have proven track records in successfully addressing the causes of behaviour that children are exhibiting and seeing them come into contact with the criminal justice system. Governments should be funding these tested First Nations-led solutions and community programs that have far better outcomes for children and communities. (2)

The ACT is the first jurisdiction in Australia to make a commitment to bring its laws in line with UN standards by working to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14. Now it's time for the rest of the country to follow this leadership. (3)

(1) Open letter re: health reasons for raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14
(2) AIA Sky is the Limit Report
(3) Human Rights Law Centre: ACT roadmap to raising the age

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  Our Petition


To my State Premier or Chief Minister,

Right now in our state children as young as 10 are in prison. The figures from the 2021 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report into youth detention highlighted that 98% of children in detention on an average day were unsentenced. That children are being sent to prison without having been convicted of a crime is horrific.

There is an overwhelming amount of medical and psychological evidence that shows us children’s brains are still developing, especially the parts that regulate judgement, decision-making and impulse control. This means that kids cannot foresee the consequences of any action and cannot fully understand the criminal nature of their behaviour. Whether sentenced or unsentenced, children can not navigate the full weight of their actions and do not belong in prison.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called on countries to raise the age to at least 14 years old. China, Russia, Germany, Spain, Sierra Leone, Azerbaijan, Cambodia and Rwanda have taken this step and we must do the same for Australian kids.

It is not good enough that we are subjecting children in this country, largely First Nations children, to the terrible depths of prison. Raising the age to 12 is not sufficient, I call on you to immediately and urgently raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old.

Yours sincerely,
[Your name]

State Premiers and Chief Ministers
Dominic Perrottet, Premier of New South Wales; Annastacia Palaszczuk, Premier of Queensland; Peter Malinauskas, Premier of South Australia; Peter Gutwein, Premier of Tasmania; Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria; Mark McGowan, Premier of Western Australia; Natasha Fyles, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory; Andrew Barr, Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory


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