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Commissioner calls for increase in age of criminal responsibility

Graphic: Commissioner Megan Mitchell

A scorecard released by the Children's Commissioner calls for Australian governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility from ten to 14.

National Children's Commissioner Megan Mitchell released a scorecard on Universal Children's Day – 20 November – assessing outcomes for children's rights across Australia and providing recommendations.

The scorecard, which marks the 30th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, calls for Australian governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility from ten to 14 in line with a recommendation made by the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

"Placing children in any kind of detention takes away their childhood and disrupts their healthy development. It also increases the likelihood of them re-offending," said Commissioner Mitchell.

A working group investigating the possibility of raising the age of criminal responsibility – which is presently low compared to other countries – is due to report back to Australia's Council of Attorneys General next week.

"Children's rights are not well understood within the community, and the rights of some groups of children are not very well protected, which has negative impacts on their wellbeing and ability to thrive.

"This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children with disability, children in care, children in rural and remote locations, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and LGBTI children," said Commissioner Mitchell.

Mikiko Otani, a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, welcomed the scorecard at a conference at Melbourne University.

"I'm so pleased to present this scorecard because it addresses many of the recommendations the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child made to Australia earlier this year," Mrs Otani said.

The scorecard calls on the Australian Government to develop a National Plan for Child Wellbeing and to appoint a Cabinet level Minister with responsibility for driving children's issues at the national level.

The scorecard addresses children's rights in relation to immigration detention, the importance of a clean environment, homelessness, health and an adequate standard of living.

The scorecard also makes clear that more needs to be done to support the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people, and that support needs to be provided earlier in children's lives.

> Read the Scorecard on Children's Rights in Australia

Date: 20 November 2019

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

Image credits

  1. Commissioner Megan Mitchell - Australian Human Rights Commission