Greens Second-Read Raise The Age Bill One Year After Global BLM Protests
The Victorian Greens will second-read their ‘raise the age’ bill in Parliament today, which would raise the age of criminal responsibility in Victoria from 10 to 14.
Children should be cared for and protected, supported and guided to learn and grow, not charged, convicted and even imprisoned.
Yet, in parts of Australia, children as young as ten can be arrested, put through the court system and potentially locked up, even for minor legal missteps.
If passed, the Greens’ bill would amend section 344 of the Children Youth and Families Act 2005, and commence in November 2022.
The delayed start would allow sufficient time for existing therapeutic and restorative programs and pathways to be developed and strengthened to divert children under 14 from the criminal justice system.
Victorian Greens spokesperson for justice, Dr Tim Read, said the Victorian Government was at a crossroads.
MPs across the political spectrum have started to break rank and support the reform, joining calls to raise the age from groups as diverse as Change the Record, Amnesty Australia, NATSILS, the UN, and the Australian Medical Association.
Dr Read said that by supporting the Greens’ bill, the government could lead the way on reform and encourage other states to follow suit.
Arrernte woman and Australian Greens candidate for Cooper, Celeste Liddle, said exactly one year ago George Floyd’s death at the hands of police sparked a wave of Black Lives Matter protests across the globe.
She added it was clear that since then momentum for First Nations justice had reached fever pitch and that it was high-time the government addressed the over-incarceration of Aboriginal people in our prisons, starting by raising the age.
Quotes attributable to Victorian Greens spokesperson for justice, Dr Tim Read:
"This country's track record of pushing kids as young as ten through the school-to-prison pipeline is a national disgrace.
"Aboriginal children account for almost 65 per cent of young people behind bars around Australia, and it's high-time we changed that.
"Children need to be kept out of the justice system for as long as possible. Locking them up at such a young age makes them more likely to reoffend, often violently, putting the community at risk.
"Our bill would raise the age of criminal responsibility so that kids as young as ten are supported rather than punished.
"By passing our bill, the Victorian Government has the opportunity to lead the way on reform and encourage other states to follow suit."
Quotes attributable to Arrernte woman and Australian Greens Cooper candidate, Celeste Liddle:
"It's been one year since Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the world and here in Australia. It’s a blight on this country that our leaders have failed to take meaningful action since then.
"Research shows that the key determinant of kids being in prison is poverty, disability and trauma. It’s a terrible reflection on our society that we further traumatise these kids by locking them up in prisons rather than provide them with the social support to cope and thrive.
"Every child needlessly locked up is one more child damaged by our unjust legal system that puts tough on crime politics before the rights and wellbeing of our most vulnerable – little kids.
"The gross over-incarceration of First Nations people puts lives at risk. To stop deaths in custody, we must wind back laws that see people locked up needlessly, starting with young kids."
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