This National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day (August 4), Amnesty International Australia are reminding governments no child belongs behind bars.
Currently in Australia, children as young as ten can be arrested by police, charged with an offence, and locked in prison. Advocates for #raisetheage would like to see the minimum age of criminal responsibility be raised immediately to at least 14 years old – in line with the international standard.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are disproportionately impacted by these laws and pushed into prison cells at even higher rates, accounting for 65 per cent of these younger children in prisons.
Speaking with Boe Spearim from 98.9s Let’s Talk program, Amnesty International Australia’s Indigenous Rights Campaigner Maggie Munn says children that young cannot fully understand the criminal nature of their behaviour or foresee the consequences of their actions.
“14 is not an arbitrary number that we’ve plucked out of thin air, it’s supported by the international standard as well as medical evidence and support from psychiatrists, and people who work with kids in the justice system to identify that people at any age can navigate what’s right and wrong, but children under the age of 14 lack the cognitive capacity to really navigate criminal responsibility,” Maggie said.
“So, before you hit 14 you just can’t really understand and navigate the gravity of criminal responsibility.”
The proud Gunggari person says, “nobody under the age of 14 should be in prison – ideally no child should be in prison.”
Maggie says having a day like [National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day] is important to really celebrate and acknowledge the successes, strengths, and beautiful achievements of our kids.
She says Children’s Day is also an opportunity to recognise how far we’ve still got to go in the grand scheme of things.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are some of the most incarcerated kids on the planet, and the health and education outcomes facing our kids are so behind where it needs to be.
“There are so many good kids and adults from our communities that are working so hard, and so tirelessly to improve those standards for our kids and they really need to be spotlighted and talked about so people don’t forget that we are still fighting for better outcomes for our kids – it’s not something that’s been resolved yet.
“Despite all of the government initiatives, and funded programs, and all of that sort of stuff that is implemented, we’re still having to fight for the bare minimum for our kids”
You can listen to Maggie’s interview with Boe here: