Australia’s peak medical body is calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 14 years.
The age of criminal responsibility is the age at which a child is considered capable of being dealt with by the criminal justice system.
At the moment, children aged 10 and above can be charged, prosecuted, and imprisoned.
Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Tony Bartone believes raising the age of criminal responsibility will prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of vulnerable children.
“Australia has one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility in the world,” Dr Bartone said.
“The criminalisation of children in Australia is a nationwide problem that disproportionately impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
“Most children in prison come from backgrounds that are disadvantaged. These children often experience violence, abuse, disability, homelessness, and drug or alcohol misuse.”
He said criminalising the behaviour of young and vulnerable children creates a vicious cycle of disadvantage.
Around 600 children below the age of 14 are locked away in youth jails each year, with Aboriginal and Islander children constituting 70 per cent of that number.
Around 9000 children below the age of 14 are dealt with in the broader criminal justice system each year.