MEDIA RELEASE: Today the South Australian Government accepted the #RaiseTheAge petition from 11,923 South Australians who have called for the minimum age of criminal responsibility to be raised to at least 14 years.
Members from the SA Raise the Age Coalition met with the SA Attorney-General, the Hon Kyam Maher MLC, to reiterate the calls of thousands of community members to keep the community, and children, safe by investing in age-appropriate, therapeutic supports and services in the community.
Ross Womersley, CEO of SACOSS, who joined Scott Wilson from the SA Aboriginal Controlled Organisation Network (SAACCON), to hand over the signed petitions said: "This petition sends a clear message that thousands of South Australians believe that we can do so much better in caring for children across our society. Rather than detaining young children who might be experiencing challenging times, we need to ensure that they and their families can access the necessary support and guidance that they need.
"Criminalising young children results in further lifelong trauma and exposes them to learning negative patterns of behaviour, rather than finding pathways that enable them to be happy members of their families and communities.
"Criminalising and institutionalising children only makes them and the broader community less safe, and our society less compassionate. Let’s have the courage to do the right thing by children and properly invest in early intervention and age-appropriate support services while raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years."
Cheryl Axleby, Co-Chair of Change the Record, said:
"Today we handed the South Australian Attorney-General the signatures of over eleven thousand South Australians who are calling for the minimum age of criminal responsibility to be raised to at least 14 years of age, and for children to be kept out of prison.
"Our children belong with us at home, at school and in our communities - not in prison cells. The South Australian Government has shown leadership before, and we’re calling on them to show leadership again and change these harmful, archaic laws and raise the age to at least 14 as a matter of urgency."
Scott Wilson, Lead Convenor of the SA Aboriginal Controlled Organisation Network (SAACCON) said, "The Malinaukus Government has a generational opportunity to bring about meaningful change in the lives of young people. Children who are 10 to 14 years of age should not be criminalised. Research shows that placing young people in detention usually leads to them being incarcerated as adults.
"The 'Close the Gap' Target 11 states that by 2031, all states must reduce the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth (10-17 years of age) in detention by 30 per cent. By raising the age to at least 14, we could reduce the rate of detention by 50 per cent, thereby potentially enabling us to exceed this Target by 9 years."
Earlier this month the Commonwealth Attorney-General accepted a national petition of 200,000 signatories calling for Australian children under the age of 14 years to be kept out of the criminal legal system.