The Victorian Government’s appointment of an Independent Review Panel to deliver its commitment to raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 is a positive step towards effective and evidence-based justice reform, says Jesuit Social Services.

“An alternative support model for 10 to 12-year-old children is critical in ensuring Victoria’s response to children who would have previously had contact with the youth justice system is age-appropriate and designed with their rehabilitation in mind,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.

The panel will advise the Victorian Government on the design and implementation of an Alternative Service Model for children who will no longer be considered criminally responsible as the state prepares to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 by the end of 2024, and then 14 by 2027.

Jesuit Social Services’ Chair of the Board, Patricia Faulkner AO, has been appointed the panel’s chair.

“We know the young people who will be supported by the service model developed under the guidance of the panel will benefit from an evidence-based model that prioritises early intervention, rehabilitation, and restorative solutions, to give all young people a chance to lead more positive futures,” says Ms Edwards.

Jesuit Social Services has long advocated for all Australian jurisdictions to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 with no exceptions, in line with international human rights standards and expert medical evidence regarding children’s brain development and decision-making capacity.

“Raising the age of criminal responsibility is the right thing to do for children, their families, and the broader community. Instead of criminalising primary school aged children, we must focus on steering children towards positive pathways. We must keep children in the community and maintain their connection to family, school and culture,” says Ms Edwards.

Jesuit Social Services recently advocated to the Northern Territory Government on a model for supporting 10-and 11-year-olds who cause harm, after the Territory raised the age of criminal responsibility to 12 in August. The model frames offending behaviour as an opportunity to provide support, rather than punishment, to enable young people to reorient their lives and stay out of the justice system.

“Children must be accountable for their actions, but the evidence tells us unequivocally that there is a more effective way to support children to change their behaviour than involvement with the criminal justice system,” says Ms Edwards.

“These steps towards an Alternative Service Model for 10-and 11-year-olds will work to will give children and their families the support they need to turn their lives around.”

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