CEO message: July

CMY has signed on to an open letter published today by the Smart Justice for Young People coalition, which raises serious concerns around the recent calls by Victoria Police for increased powers to arrest children under the age of criminal responsibility, once the age is raised to 12. 

The coalition, made up of over 40 leading social services, health, legal, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and youth advocacy organisations, is urging the Victorian Government to ensure that children are properly supported and nurtured, not criminalised, when the age of criminal responsibility is raised. Evidence has shown that any engagement with the criminal legal system, including first contact with police, has a detrimental impact on a child. Children as young as 10 don’t belong in prison.  

We know from our work running programs such as the Youth Referral and Independent Persons Program (YRIPP) that children engaged with Victoria’s youth justice system are predominantly made up of overrepresented groups including First Nations children, particular multicultural communities, and children in out of home care. 

We agree this issue requires attention but results will only be achieved if addressed from a health and wellbeing approach. In most instances, these are Victoria’s most vulnerable children. We should focus on delivering these children their fundamental right to safety and care, not incarceration.  

CMY has long been calling on the Government to invest in a whole-of-government multicultural youth justice strategy that is informed by young people and families with lived experience of the youth justice system; and which focuses on developing culturally-responsive early intervention and prevention programs.  

As outlined in the coalition’s open letter released today: 

“Our collective focus must be on the futures of Victorian children, and creating the support networks that will enable them to thrive in the community. This can only be achieved through a health, education and wellbeing-based model for responding to children who are engaging in harmful behaviours. Police cannot be relied upon to deliver this model, but health practitioners, educators, and youth and family workers can.” 

The letter also reiterates our collective call for the Victorian Government to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, with no exceptions.

You can read the open letter in full here.