Replace punishment with prevention, says Raise the Age network

27 Jun 2024 by Jonathan Foye in: Latest News

Raise the Age NSW has  made a joint submission to the NSW Government Inquiry into community safety in regional and rural communities

The submission calls for the government to resourcing and support Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations to work with First Nations children, families, and communities. Raise the Age also said the government needs to commit to programs that prevent crime from the start. 

Karly Warner is the CEO of Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT). 

“Communities will not be made safer by so-called “tough on crime” policies which actually make crime worse,” Ms Warner said. 

“Instead of handcuffing, arresting, strip-searching and imprisoning kids as young as 10, the NSW Government must replace punishment with prevention and invest in the solutions that we know work.” 

The Raise the Age network advocates for governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility. It has 108 members, including the NSW and ACT Synod of the Uniting Church and Uniting NSW.ACT.  

Australia has one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility in the world – with all states and territories adopting a minimum age of ten years old, with the exception of the Northern Territory, which is 12 years old. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are incarcerated up to 17 times the rate of non-Indigenous children in Australia, making them one of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in the criminal justice system. Of all children under 14 years old imprisoned in Australia between 2017 to 2021, 65 percent were Indigenous and 68 percent hadn’t even been convicted of any crime. 

The 2023 Synod meeting called for the age of responsibility to be raised to at least 14 years old

The Synod’s Director for First Peoples Strategy and Engagement, Nathan Tyson, introduced the proposal.  

“We’re not saying that people should not be responsible for the things they do, but that they should not be criminally responsible,” Mr Tyson said. 

The full Raise the Age NSW submission is available here.