The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria has joined a growing chorus demanding governments immediately raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to the international standard of 14.
Co-chair of the Assembly, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson penned an open letter to the Victorian Attorney General expressing her frustration over the Labor government’s lack of movement on the issue.
This time last year, The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, the democratic body of Traditional Owners responsible for advancing the country’s first Treaty process through the Yoorrook Justice Commission, wrote to the Government saying this urgent reform doesn’t need to wait for Treaty negotiations.
In the letter submitted on Thursday, the Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder said, “Our children will not be used as bargaining chips, this reform needs to happen, and it needs to happen now.”
“We don’t want another year to go by with more of our children getting caught in the quicksand of the criminal justice system. We need reform, yesterday.”
Whilst acknowledging the significant progress made on establishing a clear pathway to Treaty-making, the letter makes the Assembly’s frustration abundantly clear and demands the Government bring Victorian practices in line with international human rights law.
“The solutions are all there on the table. Listen to our people, listen to the experts like the doctors and legal experts who are all explaining why the age of criminal responsibility needs to be raised to at least 14 years. No more excuses, there’s already lots of support in the parliament, let’s get it done,” said Aunty Geraldine.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday said his government wanted a change to the age of criminality, but it would only come through a consistent, national approach.
“There’s a forum to do that and that’s the standing committee of attorneys-general,” the premier told reporters.
The Assembly has also submitted a written submission – on this and other youth justice and child removal related topics, to the Yoorrook Justice Commission ahead of Aunty Geraldine’s appearance at a hearing next week at the Commission.
A copy of the letter can be found here.