Media Releases - 25 October 2021

Statement of support to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Tasmania

We, the undersigned, call upon the Tasmanian Government and the Parliament of Tasmania to take urgent action to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Tasmania to at least 14 years of age.

Major Australian organisations representing the medical, mental health, child welfare and legal professions, as well as human rights bodies and organisations representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, agree that the current minimum age of criminal responsibility – 10 years of age – is far too low.

The scientific evidence is overwhelming that, at the age of 10, a child’s brain is still developing, particularly in terms of reasoning skills, impulsivity and consequential thinking.

The evidence also shows that many children who become involved in the criminal justice system come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have complex needs that are better addressed outside the criminal justice system through a developmentally appropriate, traumainformed and culturally safe early intervention model that supports children in their families and communities.

Furthermore, there is also strong evidence that the younger children are when they first encounter the youth justice system, the more likely they are to reoffend.

Finally, the numbers show that the criminalisation of children in Australia overwhelmingly affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in force in virtually all countries in the world, states that the best interests of the child must be the primary consideration in all actions concerning children.

We note that this issue has been under discussion nationally but, after three years, attorneys general of the states and territories have not been able to agree on a way forward.

There is no reason for Tasmania to wait for national consensus and, indeed, the federal Attorney-General has stated that “Ultimately it will be a decision for each jurisdiction whether to raise the minimum age”.

This is an opportunity for Tasmania to show a better way of treating kids – a model based on programs and services that address the underlying causes of their behaviour, including programs for Aboriginal youth led by Indigenous people Tasmania should act swiftly to raise the age of criminal responsibility and we commit ourselves to support this process in whatever way we can.

Professor David Adams, Professor of Management, University of Tasmania
Salvatore Albinelli, General Manager, Port Cygnet Cannery
Professor Nicole L Asquith, Director, Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies, University of Tasmania
Robin Banks, former Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner (2010-17)
Dr Isabelle Bartkowiak-Theron, Senior Lecturer, Policing and Emergency Management, University of Tasmania
Greg Barns SC, Patron Justice Reform Initiative and Chair Prisoners Legal Service, Tasmania
Bob Brown, former Senator and Leader of the Australian Greens
Dr Kate Cashman, Course Coordinator, Policing and Emergency Management, University of Tasmania
Yvette Cehtel, CEO, Women’s Legal Service Tasmania
Erin Collins, Artistic Director, Cygnet Folk Festival
Jaime Currie, CEO, South East Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation
Kristen Desmond, Founder of the Tasmanian Disability Education Reform Lobby and former Chair of Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA)
Connie Digolis, Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Council of Tasmania
Rodney Dillon, Amnesty Australia Indigenous Rights Adviser
Associate Professor Angela Dwyer, Deputy Director, Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies, University of Tasmania
Cr Bec Enders, Mayor, Huon Valley Council
Saul Eslake, Independent Economist
Mathew Evans & Sadie Chesterman, Fat Pig Farm
Dr Adam Forsyth, Principal, St Michael’s Collegiate
The Honourable Lara Giddings, former Premier and Attorney General of Tasmania
Michael Gissing, film maker
Michael Hill, former Chief Magistrate of Tasmania and former Acting Justice of the Supreme Court of Tasmania, Chair of the Just Deserts Drug Court Support Group
Tania Hunt, CEO, Youth Network of Tasmania
Jane Hutchison, President, Community Legal Centres Tasmania
Dr Chris Jones, CEO, Anglicare Tasmania
Rosalie Martin, Founder of Connect 42 and 2017 Tasmanian of the Year
Dr Helen McArdle, President, AMA Tasmania
Trevor McKenna, President, The Law Society of Tasmania
Leanne McLean, Commissioner for Children and Young People Tasmania
Leanne Minshull, Tasmanian Senate Candidate for Local Party, Publican Ferntree Tavern
Caroline Pegg, Chief Executive Officer, The Association for Children with Disability (Tas.) Inc.
Adrienne Picone, Chief Executive Officer, Tasmanian Council on Social Service (TASCOSS)
Scott Rankin, Creative Director and CEO, Big hART and 2018 Tasmanian of the Year
Mark Redmond, CEO, Reconciliation Tasmania
Cr Anna Reynolds, Lord Mayor of Hobart
Henry Reynolds, Honorary Research Professor, Aboriginal Studies, Global Cultures & Languages
Margaret Reynolds, former Senator and Chair of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
Sonya Stanford, Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching Performance, College of Arts, Law and Education, University of Tasmania
Grace Tame, 2021 Australian of the Year
Bec Thomas, Mayor of Glenorchy
Paul Thomas, Secretary, Friends of Randalls Bay Coastcare
Annie Venables, Film Producer, Viking Films
Rajan Venkataraman, Vice-President and Tasmanian Director, Civil Liberties Australia
Deborah Wace, Churchill Fellow, Printmaker
Rob White, Distinguished Professor, Criminology, School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania
Thirza White, General Secretary, CPSU Tasmania
The Honourable Jim Wilkinson, former President of the Tasmanian Legislative Council, and President of the Tasmanian Football Board
Darryl Williams, Principal, Cygnet Primary School