9 July 2021

Yesterday, the Commonwealth Government rejected a raft of recommendations made by UN nations, including recommendations to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

With the Commonwealth Government’s leadership failure in regard to raising the age, it is time for Victoria to stop dragging its heels. The ACT has already committed to raising the age and governments have an obligation to enact this reform without wasting another minute.

The Andrews Government has repeatedly claimed that raising the age should be a national issue, but given the failure of the Commonwealth Government to make any progress, Victoria must go it alone. On reforms to the gig economy, Treasurer Tim Pallas said that Victoria would progress with reforms to protect workers because the Commonwealth was failing to do so. Victoria’s children should be worth the same level of commitment.

Other recommendations that the Commonwealth Government failed to accept included enshrining the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into domestic law.

The Andrews Government has committed to strengthening anti-vilification laws after recommendations from a Parliamentary Committee Inquiry were tabled earlier this year. The Andrews Government is also progressing Treaty negotiations and the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission truth telling process.

While the Andrews Government has shown leadership in these areas, processes like Treaty and Yoo-rrook will not be successful if more immediate concerns are not addressed. That is why it is vital to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14, ensure culturally safe OPCAT implementation and properly fund Aboriginal legal services.

The Andrews Government has the potential to leave an enduring legacy of progressive reforms that will impact generations to come, but its narrow focus and tough on crime obsession risks what work has already been done. Many commitments, including those made in the new Closing the Gap Agreement, Victoria’s Aboriginal Justice Agreement, and election promises made in the Victorian Labor Party Platform will not be delivered if the Andrews Government shirks its responsibility like the Commonwealth Government has.

Quotes Attributable to Andreea Lachsz, Head of Policy, Communications and Strategy, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service 

“It is tremendously disappointing that the Commonwealth Government rejected crucial recommendations made by UN nations that would have improved the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and all Australians.”

“At VALS, we see the results of children being locked up every day. It certainly does not help children and it does not make the community safer. It creates generational trauma and a cycle of incarceration, poor health, attainment of lower education levels and difficulties in finding employment.”

“The Andrews Government must raise the age of criminal responsibility immediately if it wants to achieve the Closing the Gap targets it agreed to last year.”