The West Australian Labor party has passed a motion to raise the age of legal responsibility to 14 at their State conference. The Greens spokesperson for Justice and First Nations: Gunnai, Gunditjmara and DjabWurrung Senator Lidia Thorpe has called it, “A step in the right direction.”
“It’s good to see WA Labor listening to the evidence from the Australian Medical Association, the United Nations Human Rights Council and adopting the Greens policy. Children belong in classrooms and playgrounds, not in handcuffs, courtrooms or prison cells.
"The justice system doesn't work for us, it works against us. It has done this for over 240 years. We need to provide cultural preventative pathways for our young people. Community-run services have proven to be more effective at prevention and building strong and healthy communities.”
In a national first, the Greens secured a commitment to raise the age of legal responsibility in the Australian Capital Territory in August last year, while the Victorian and Queensland Greens have introduced bills to raise the age in their respective state parliaments.
“We can do this, we have to continue to apply the pressure on state and territory governments to do the right thing and get our kids out of the courts or prisons and back into community.” Said Thorpe.
Quotes attributable to the Greens Senator for Western Australia, Yamatji-Noongar woman Dorinda Cox:
"This is a significant human rights issue; and it is pleasing to see WA Labor listening to the 70 organisations who have been calling for this change but we now need to see that policy translated from the Party to the Parliament.
"Ten years of age is when a child is still learning, so we must be preventing them from entering the justice system in the first place and diverting them to on country programs designed and delivered by First Nations people in their own communities.
"Every parent with a child under 10 understands how very vulnerable they are and if they are set on the right path of education, their way of living and their understanding of their world. We can start work early with other parts of the system to build positive, contributing adults later on.
"Social reinvestment in the community is the solution to youth justice. The system now is not a restorative justice process, that is not driven by trauma informed practice, or the social issues that is driving justice.
"We need alternatives to prison, detention is not the only solution. From a system level we need a legislative policy reform and we need to be innovative in the way we work with First Nations communities and the capacity they have to work with young people." Said Cox.