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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 24 June 2021) . . Page.. 2007 ..


However, we also know that the response must be evidence based and targeted, rather than primarily punitive. This reform will provide us with the tools to respond to these harms as an inclusive and compassionate community by using a needs-based approach that will ultimately improve community safety across the territory. This is a significant change for our youth and justice system. We take our responsibility to do right by them very seriously. I commend the consultation paper to both this Assembly and the community more broadly as an opportunity to discuss the important issues that this reform raises. I present the following paper:

Minimum age of criminal responsibility—Ministerial statement, 24 June 2021.

I move:

That the Assembly take note of the paper.

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (10.49): I am very pleased to speak on this ministerial statement on raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility, and I was equally pleased to join with my colleagues Minister Rattenbury and Minister Davidson as a co-sponsor of the discussion paper released yesterday.

This is a very important issue in supporting the wellbeing and the rights of young people and children in our community, and community safety. Mr Rattenbury has very clearly laid out the fact that better support, more therapeutic support and earlier intervention are essential for children and young people aged 10 to 13 in our community who are exhibiting harmful behaviours that may be harmful to themselves and particularly harmful to others. If we can put in place the right therapeutic interventions and responses for those children and young people, that is not only better for them, for their life trajectories, but also better for the community.

This provides us with an opportunity to divert people from the criminal justice system and to see them going on to not engage with the criminal justice system as older young people. That is a critically important part of the conversation that we are having with the community, and a critically important part of the work that Morag McArthur, Curijo and others are doing with the community to understand what our service system looks like at the moment and to understand how we can adjust. Minister Rattenbury said that when young people under the age of 14 engage in these harmful behaviours there is a consequence, and we must ensure the consequence is aligned with the evidence we have very clearly about young people’s development.

As the discussion paper very clearly outlines, the scientific evidence regarding brain development suggests that children under the age of 14 simply have not developed the maturity necessary to form the intent for full criminal responsibility. This developmental immaturity relates to multiple areas of cognitive functioning, including impulse control, reasoning and consequential thinking. The report from the committee on the rights of the child describes this time in a child’s life as a window of potential vulnerability in the early to mid-adolescent period during which the likelihood of impulsivity, sensation seeking and risk-taking behaviours is raised.


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