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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 5 August 2021) . . Page.. 2365 ..


MR DAVIS (Brindabella) (11.33): I rise to support in the strongest possible terms the raising of the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.

As a local member, I have engaged with many of my constituents over the past few months, since the Attorney-General released the ACT government’s discussion paper on the issue. It is fair to say that there is a diversity of views across our community.

One particular view that I have been struck by is the view of victim-survivors, people who have been the victims of crime, and hesitations or reservations they might have around legal changes that may not protect victims. I sympathise with that.

I speak to this because I want to implore those of a more conservative disposition in our community who may have reservations around such a move to think in more detail about what justice can truly look like in a community that, as Minister Davidson so rightly points out on regular occasions, should display radical love.

Justice need not look like prison bars. Justice need not look like having your liberty stripped from you. Justice need not look like putting children into places that all evidence would suggest can further entrench learnt criminality. Justice can look like caring. Justice can look like love. Justice can look like investing in young people in our community who have made errors in judgement.

I would ask all Canberrans to reflect on instances in their youth when they may have made an error of judgement. I put it to all Canberrans that if they cannot come up with at least a few, they are probably lying to themselves. It is the nature of youth that you make mistakes. Those in the community who express love and kindness towards one another have a responsibility to use those opportunities for growth and learning, and to ensure that those young people can and should become fully engaged members of their community and their society as they get older.

I take this opportunity to encourage all Canberrans to read the discussion paper to consider the experts in the field who work with children and young people in the ACT every day, and who—en masse, it is worth noting—support this legislative reform.

I would like to quote Dr Justin Barker, the CEO of the Youth Coalition of the ACT. He says:

All of us want to live in safe and healthy communities. That means investing in housing, healthcare services and family supports that children and young people need to learn and grow, not ripping them out of our community and locking them away. Raising the age of criminal responsibility is one step in the right direction to building the type of therapeutic and, importantly, evidence-based service landscape that we need to keep kids and our community safe. They welcome this opportunity to share expertise with the ACT government about the type of services, programs and whole-of-government response needed to give every child the chance to thrive.

If you will indulge me for a bit longer, Mr Assistant Speaker, Dr Emma Campbell, the CEO of the ACT Council of Social Service, a peak representative body for many different groups in Canberra who support children and young people, said:


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