Joint Submission to Review of Age of Criminal Responsibility
The Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) together with Youth Action and the other state and territory youth sector peak bodies across Australia created a joint submission calling on the Council of Attorneys-General (COAG) and the Australian Government to raise the age of legal criminal responsibility from 10 years to 14.
Children as young as 10 years old in Australia are being arrested, prosecuted and detained in prisons. They are being torn away from their families, communities and culture. They are being incarcerated in facilities that increase the likelihood of reoffending when compared to suitable alternatives, such as youth work programs and community supports. In Australia, there are around 600 children below the age of 14 who are locked up in prison each year.
Children and young people deserve supports that enable them to succeed. This is particularly important for children between the ages of 10–14. The earlier children have contact with the criminal justice system, the more likely they are to have long term involvement in crime. Raising the age of criminal responsibility will reduce long term offending and increase community safety.
The Australian community, including state and territory governments, is collectively responsible for supporting children and young people to reach their potential and become positive and productive citizens. Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 is an appropriate first step toward reducing overrepresentation of particular cohorts of young people, and better supporting children and young people in Australia.
Greater Western Sydney is home to 470,000 young people, many of whom have been negatively impacted by stereotypes and inaccurate depictions of the region. Our report challenges these stereotypes.
In April 2017, almost 900 young people aged 12-25 years in Greater Western Sydney responded to our survey question ‘What Makes You Smile About Where You Live?’ The results demonstrate the successes of Western Sydney and the elements that make it thrive.
What did we find out?
- Negative stereotypes about Western Sydney are outdated. Young people are excited and optimistic about life in Western Sydney.
- Young people positively identify as belonging to Western Sydney, an identity which is strongest when they are engaged and feel accepted.
- Young people view themselves as assets, essential to addressing the region's challenges, as well as contributing to the success of Western Sydney.
Four main elements that make Greater Western Sydney thrive:
- People: People in Western Sydney are welcoming and accepting
- Culture: Western Sydney celebrates cultural diversity
- Community: Western Sydney is a connected, supportive, and friendly community
- Place: Young people love the uniqueness of Western Sydney
What are we doing with this information?
We are amplifying the voice of young people by sending the report to every local, state, and federal politician in Greater Western Sydney.
This research formed part of the Keeping It Together (KIT) Youth Sector Support Project undertaken by Youth Action (formerly YAPA), to support the youth sector through a significant period of change brought about by two key reforms.
Firstly, after 21 years of serving NSW young people with locally devised programs, the Community Services Grants Program (CSGP) began a reform process that would see services fall under two umbrellas—the Early Intervention and Placement Prevention Program (EIPP) focused on direct services to children, young people and their families, and Community Builders, focused on community strengthening. This change precipitated a 25% increase in funding available across various types of services, including a large proportion of services working with young people.
Secondly, the Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW handed down by Justice James Wood in 2008 and the subsequent reforms under the NSW Government’s action plan Keep Them Safe: A Shared Approach to Child Wellbeing 2009–2014 resulted in wide–ranging changes to the ways in which youth services and their colleagues across the community services sector were required to deal with their work with children and young people.
In response, YAPA and NSW Family Services Inc., the peak organisation providing support to non–government organisations in NSW that provide services to families experiencing stress, partnered to deliver the Keeping It Together Sector Support Project to youth and family support services across NSW, as funded by the Department of Family and Community Services (formerly Department of Human Services—Community Services).