As there is a lot of controversy around raising the criminal age of responsibility from 10 to 14, I recommend that the best course of action would be to raise the minimum age level to 12, while retaining and raising the higher flexible age level to 15 years. This would be a welcome development for children and the justice system in Australia. Former Police Commissioner, Bob Atkinson in a 2018 report commented on the rise of juvenile offenders saying, “If children can’t be kept out of court, all efforts should be made to keep children out of custody prior to and following an appearance in court” he also suggested that a change of criminal responsibility should be adopted nationally. There is an extensive list of alternate punishments to detention for young people of these ages including; employing experienced and qualified staff who are able to deliverer tailored support and whom juveniles are able to create a relationship with, especially at times of high risk investing in programs that intervene early and target the causes of crimes, holding police accountable to have the discretion to send children into programs rather than prosecuting them for minor offences including fare evasion as well as integrating more diversionary, therapeutic and educational programs into the community to give the people in power other options than by putting young people in detention. Programs such as skill building, and counseling have also shown to reduce reoffending within Queensland by 10–15%. By considering these other courses of punishment to young people in our nation, it is important to always keep in mind and ensure that custody should always be a last resort when dealing with children as children from the early ages of 12 and below as they haven’t fully developed as humans and don’t have full brain development and capacity to understand their actions as well as by understanding that early intervention when risk factors associated with antisocial or criminal behaviour are evident, there is a greater chance of preventing a child’s later involvement in criminal acts and improving their life outcomes. This will also limit and reduce the number of children filling the Youth Detention Centres around the nation as the reality of the situation is, the two youth detention centers within Queensland are already over max capacity. Children are vulnerable and it is important that as a society we make them feel safe and can allow them to feel comfortable, especially when dealing with people in authority. Young people do need to stand up and take responsibility and accountability, but by locking them up, throwing away the key, naming and shaming, it won’t make these juvenile offenders feel comfortable enough to understand that the actions they are using aren’t right and they need to change their ways. All Queensland children deserve a positive start in life, but once stuck in the quicksand of the prison system, a child’s chance at a bright future can be lost and diminished forever. The Palaszczuk Government must instead, give young kids the extra support they need, so they can grow and thrive, strong in their communities. From this, it becomes imperative to intervene as early as possible, keep children out of court, out of custody and reduce criminal offending around not only Queensland but the nation.
There are many people nationwide who also believe that raising the criminal age of conviction would benefit all Australians, especially the young people and future leaders of our country. Activism Growth and Development Coordinator of Amnesty International Ms Belinda Lowe stated, ‘It’s critical to raise the age — too many childhoods are being lost in detention centres in Queensland”. This is true in many aspects as children also have the right to be treated with respect and dignity to also live out their lives following the Human Rights that have been laid out for all people all over the world no matter; age, race, gender or religion. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been put in place since 1948 to ensure all people are treated fairly, treat others fairly and have the ability to make genuine choices in our daily lives. In order to have order though out all aspects of our nation, it is imperative that all people no matter the circumstances are treated fairly and with the punishments that deserve. Placing youth in detention should always be a last resort and from the recommendations made, should remain a last resort as locking youth away in detention stops a child to develop in a good environment causing further development issues and stops them from being able to live their lives to the fullest and to the highest potential possible.