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AG leaves door open to change as bumper criminal age petition handed to Federal Govt

Giovanni Torre -

More than 200,000 people nationwide have petitioned the Federal Government to take action to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14.

Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney met with representatives from Change the Record and other human rights, legal and First Nations-led organisations who handed over the petition on Tuesday.

Change the Record co-chair Cheryl Axleby said the petition delivered a clear message from thousands of Australians who want to see children looked after.

"We thank the Attorney General and Minister for Indigenous Australians for accepting our petition and for their commitment to Raise The Age," she said.

"We are calling on every state and territory government to heed the medical, legal and child development experts who have been crystal clear; no child under the age of 14 years old should be arrested, hauled before a court or convicted of a criminal offence."

A spokesperson for Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the Federal government could take leadership on the matter which has traditionally been managed by state governments.

"The Attorney-General will be discussing this with his colleagues at the Council of Attorneys-General meeting," he said.

"It's sad fact that a significant number of children held in detention are Indigenous children and we need to invest in programs to tackle the unacceptably high rate of incarceration of Indigenous Australians.

"And if we want to reduce incarceration rates, we need to reduce crime.

"This is why Labor has committed to a $79 million justice re-investment to tackle the root causes of crime and recidivism that will boost funding for up to 30 communities to establish justice reinvestment initiatives, working with local police and courts to reduce crime and reduce incarceration rates."

Amnesty International Australia representative Maggie Munn said raising the minimum age from 10 to 14 was the least governments could do for First Nations justice.

"200,000 people have spoken, they've taken action and they're angry that it's taking this long," she said.

"It's time to raise the age, it's time for the Federal and state and territory governments to

Advocates meet with Minister Linda Burney and Attorney General Mark Dreyfus in Canberra.

act on their constituents' demands, on the evidence that's on their desks, and we will hold them accountable.

"Our children deserve better, and we will keep fighting until they get it."

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service chairwoman Priscilla Atkins said that raising the age would have positive generational impact for children.

The Human Rights Law Centre, ACOSS, the National FVPLS, and Oxfam also backed the petition.

State and territory petition signatories will be handed over to state and territory attorney generals and members of parliament over the coming weeks.

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