Synod urges governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Australia
The 2023 Synod has accepted a proposal to call on the NSW and ACT governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old.
Australia has one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility in the world – with all states and territories adopting a minimum age of ten years old, with the exception of the Northern Territory, which is 12 years old.
The Synod’s Director for First Peoples Strategy and Engagement, Nathan Tyson, introduced the proposal.
“We’re not saying that people should not be responsible for the things they do, but that they should not be criminally responsible,” Mr Tyson said.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are incarcerated up to 17 times the rate of non-Indigenous children in Australia, making them one of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in the criminal justice system. Of all children under 14 years old imprisoned in Australia between 2017 to 2021, 65 percent were Indigenous and 68 percent hadn’t even been convicted of any crime.
Rev. Mark Kickett is the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) Interim National Chairperson.
“Thirty years ago, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody provided a blueprint for preventing deaths in custody and reducing the incarceration rate of First Peoples,” Rev. Kickett said.
“It’s now a generation later and governments at all levels have failed to act.”
The Uniting Church NSW and ACT Synod will join the national Raise the Age campaign with more than 100 other organisations as part of its advocacy efforts to amend legislation.
Australia has been repeatedly criticised by the United Nations, most recently by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, for failing to reform to the current minimum age of 14 years old.
The Proposal was endorsed by Synod members to join the campaign #Raisetheage with collaboration across the Church. Other Synods have already joined the campaign.