Across Australia, children as young 10 can be arrested by police, charged with an offence, hauled before a court and locked away in a prison.

It’s time for the federal, state and territory governments to do what’s right and change the laws to #RaiseTheAge, so children aged 10 to 13 years are not sent to prison. There has been a chorus of calls both nationally and internationally from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, expert United Nations bodies, human rights organisations, medical and legal bodies, and academics for Australia to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

You can sign the petition to #RaiseTheAge at

At Weave we work with a group of amazing community members, parents, carers, children and advocates across our programs. In every program those we work with have interactions with the criminal legal system, including our Kool Kids Program that supports 7-13 year olds. These interactions are sadly not often positive. Currently, in Australia every year we lock-up nearly 600 10-13 year olds in prisons, 70% of those children being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

At Weave we believe that every child deserves to be supported to reach their potential. We work day in and day out with children that have been criminalised – we colour in with them, we take them to playgrounds and play charades with them. They are funny, kind and compassionate kids. They are children with deep knowledge of their culture, who are inquisitive and kind to nature. We know that the best way to prevent future offending and to make communities safer is to invest in these kids, in communities, in housing, in disability support, to address family and interpersonal violence and to support harm minimisation.

This change needs to be driven by holistic, trauma informed practice, over time with people these children respect and more importantly with people who respect them. Instead of prison children should have access to mental health support, mentoring, education and skill building opportunities. They should be shown love, respect and compassion, not punishment and removal from society. Doctors have said this age group does not have the cognitive capacity to understand the criminal consequences of their actions, imprisoning them is cruel – they aren’t learning from it, they are being traumatised by it.

The majority of children who are funnelled into the legal system are there for property-related crime and theft. Property is not more valuable than a 10 year olds liberty, their future and their safety. When a child causes harm to themselves or others it’s an indicator of a deeper issue. Violent behaviour in children is often directly linked to experiences of trauma. Instead of criminalising trauma in children, we should be addressing and alleviating it. Prison is no place for children. And for those who question the role of public safety, I don’t feel safer knowing a 10 year old who shoplifted is now in prison, I feel heartbroken. I also know the earlier the contact with the criminal system, the more likely a child will in turn reoffend, essentially making our society and communities less safe.

Angela Davis said, ‘prisons do not disappear social problems they disappear human beings’, and youth prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear children from homes, playgrounds, school, culture, love and support – denying them the safety and warmth to learn and grow into their full potential.

These words have been prepared by Drew, one of our Kool Kids workers at Weave.

Find out more about our Kool Kids Program here.