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Question: When will SA Government raise the age of criminal responsibility?

14 June 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last week, my office received a substantial number of emails, as I believe have other members of this place, calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 14 years. Just last week, the Tasmanian government committed to raising the age to 14, in line with the recommendations from the United Nations. This follows the ACT, where a similar commitment has been made.

The council of attorneys-general last year postponed the decision to raise the age, meanwhile children between the ages of 10 and 14 continue to be sent to detention. When asked about this issue last month, the Attorney-General told this house that raising the age is an important issue. He also informed us that, and I quote, 'on occasions the entire population of the youth detention centre in South Australia is made up of Aboriginal people'.

Given the Attorney-General sees this as such an important issue, my question to him is: how many children does the Malinauskas government intend to allow to end up in detention before it follows the lead of other states and territories and raises the age of criminal responsibility to 14?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member for his question. It is an important one, and I note his strong interest in this area. I think since the honourable member last asked that question a number of discussions have taken place, and certainly over the winter break I will be discussing this with colleagues, initially in the ACT but following the announcement the honourable member referred to that I think Tasmania made last week about their intentions, I will also seek advice about what they are doing.

It is not just a case of changing a bit of the legislation to say instead of 10 substitute the number 14. It is also about what alternatives there are, what services might be provided to young people who find themselves in contact with the justice system. Also, I know that jurisdictions that are starting to go down this path are looking at whether there are any things that will stay included in the carve out. It is an important question. There will be further discussions over the winter break that we will be having with other jurisdictions, but we certainly continue, both myself and officers from my office and my department, discussions with different groups around Australia about this issue.