“Stop putting kids in jail”. These are the words of Dujuan Hoosan, the 12-year-old Arrente and Garrwa boy who recently addressed the United Nations to shine a spotlight on Australia’s tough youth detention laws. We wanted to know, do you think they should change?
Dujuan, who lives in Alice Springs, became the youngest person ever to address the United Nations’ Human Rights Council on Tuesday 10 September.
12-year-old Dujuan Hoosan, who comes from Arrernte and Garrwa country in NT, has travelled to the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to tell his story. https://t.co/7UzZgsKFaZ
— Nakari Thorpe (@nakarithorpe) September 9, 2019
Following his own close call with the youth justice system, Dujuan travelled to Geneva to share his story. He was there on behalf of Australia’s Human Rights Law Centre, who’ve been calling for our government to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 to more closely align with international law.
We asked our online community whether the age of criminal responsibility should change. There were 170 responses, and the majority agreed with Dujuan.
Amy from Melbourne said:
“Correct me if I’m wrong but can’t you buy a kids movie ticket up until like age 12? I feel like at such a young age it’s stemming from something else and the child needs help, not prison.”
And Harmony from Sydney said:
“I think kids that age are just too young. And yes, if they do something bad like murder someone, there should be intervention. But most young kids don’t do that kind of stuff.”
Many others reached out to share their thoughts:
What does this mean for young Aussies?
Right now, in all Australian states and territories, anyone aged 10 and above is considered capable of committing a criminal offence. They can be arrested, charged and detained. This is called the age of criminal responsibility, and ours is among the lowest in the world.
Minimum age of criminal responsibility around the world | Source: SBS News
In many Scandinavian countries, the age of criminal responsibility is 15 years of age. It’s as high as 18 in some South American countries. Advocacy groups say the minimum should be 14 years.
Indigenous Australians are disproportionately affected by these laws—more than half of all children in the youth justice system are Indigenous, when they make up only 3% of the total population.
Dujuan says this needs to change.
“Adults never listen to kids like me. But we have important things to say…I want my school to be run by Aboriginal people. I want adults to stop cruelling (sic) 10-year-old kids in jail. I want my future to be out on land with strong culture and language.”
What do you think about the age of criminal responsibility? Tell us! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity. Banner image: Dujuan Hoosan | Source: SBS