More than 25,000 Queenslanders have backed a powerful coalition of legal and community services across the state calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised.

Today, Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman will meet with key legal and community services leaders to receive a petition containing 26,853 signatures, calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 to 14 years old.

The push comes less than a week after a heated debate in State Parliament about the issue, with the Queensland Government voting down a bill to raise the age to 14 years. Currently, 10 to 13 year olds can be arrested, strip searched and imprisoned in Queensland.

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman told Parliament last week that the Queensland bill had come ahead of a federal decision between Attorney-Generals nationwide about raising the age, and the lack of a suitable framework to deal with 10 to 14 year olds’ harmful behaviour.

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (Qld) CEO Shane Duffy asked Queenslanders how they would feel if their 10 year old was “locked-up”.

“These children should be at primary school – that’s right, primary school – not sitting in a correctional facility on remand. It’s time we look at community-based and led solutions, and invest in the root causes or drivers of why these children come into the criminal justice system – and eventually detention – in the first place. We need more services, not sentences. How would you personally feel about your 10 year old being locked up?”

PeakCare Queensland Executive Director Lindsay Wegener, and a former director of Queensland youth detention centres, said the current laws were “dangerous and cruel”, and put children on a lifetime trajectory of crime.

“This is not only a matter of stopping very young children – some as young as ten – from being held in a youth prison,” Mr Wegener said. “It is also about ensuring that they are not handcuffed, fingerprinted, strip-searched, thrown before a court where the proceedings are beyond their comprehension, and being held in watchhouses overnight, or often for much longer periods of time. This may seem to be reasonable if it happens to someone else’s child, but what if it were to happen to your child?”

Matt Gardiner, CEO of 54 reasons, part of Save the Children Australia, said children should be in homes, not behind bars.

“We must protect young Queensland children from the trauma of incarceration and the cycle of disadvantage it creates, by instead implementing evidence-based early intervention and diversionary programs,” Mr Gardiner said.

Youth Advocacy Centre CEO Katie Acheson said raising the age would bring Queensland into line with international human rights guidelines, and medical and legal research findings.

“Instead of caring for these children who often have had very difficult lives, we are creating more trauma and exacerbates negative behaviour,” Ms Acheson warned.

Change the Record Co-Chair Cheryl Axleby said the Queensland Government should invest in community-based solutions “that actually work”.

“Not the outdated and ineffective ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ policies that are failing all of us,” Ms Axleby said.

Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) CEO Aimee McVeigh said supporting families and communities, including through properly funded community services, should be prioritised so that children as young as 10 do not end up in the criminal justice system.

“The Queensland Government has, for decades, underfunded community services that could prevent crime by young people. The Queensland Government should front up for better services for young people, supporting families and communities, and getting kids back at school.”

Queensland is the fourth state government to be presented with a petition, as part of the nationwide Raise The Age campaign.

22 August 2022 |Service type: