Age of Criminal Responsibility in Australia

The age of criminal responsibility in Australia has become a pivotal issue, sparking widespread debate and calls for reform.

Currently, in most Australian states, children as young as 10 can be charged, convicted, and incarcerated. This has led to a significant push towards raising the age to 14, aligning with recommendations from the United Nations and various advocacy groups.

The argument for change is supported by more than a dozen organizations, including First Nations groups, legal and human rights advocates, peak bodies, and unions.

These groups highlight the detrimental impact of the current age on young individuals and its role in perpetuating social issues.

Current State and Future Plans

Below is a summary of the current age of criminal responsibility across different Australian regions and the proposed changes to improve the system:

Region Current Age of Criminal Responsibility Future Plans
New South Wales (NSW) 10 Coalition pushing to raise the age to 14
Northern Territory 12 (Raised recently) N/A
Victoria 10 Commitment to raise to 12 by end of next year, and to 14 by 2027
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) 10 Legislation introduced to raise immediately to 12, and to 14 by July 2025

The Case for Change in Criminal Responsibility

The initiative to raise the age of criminal responsibility is backed by distressing statistics and a consensus among professionals from various sectors. For instance, data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (Bocsar) shows that many young people have been remanded in custody or denied bail.

In the past financial year alone, 56 children under 18 were strip-searched in NSW, including 25 underage girls, with a significant portion being Indigenous. These figures underscore the urgent need for reform.

Legal experts, medical professionals, and human rights organizations have rallied in support of this change, arguing that the involvement of children as young as 10 in the criminal justice system can have lasting negative effects.

The consensus is clear: raising the age is a necessary step to protect young people, especially those from Indigenous communities who are disproportionately affected by the current system.

Our thoughts on this

We feel that there is a strong momentum and broad support for raising the age of criminal responsibility across Australia, particularly in NSW.

This movement is driven by a growing awareness of the negative impacts on young individuals and a unified call for reform among diverse organizations.

The proposed changes aim not only to align with international standards but also to foster a more just and equitable society for future generations.


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