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Estimates: Questions on raising the age of criminal responsibility in Qld

In Estimates Hearings on Tuesday 15 December 2020, I asked about the call to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Queensland.

You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: Again, this is a question I ask against the backdrop of our high imprisonment rate, particularly incarceration of Indigenous children. Amnesty International’s kids belong in community report was released this Reconciliation Week, but we have just recently seen the government reject calls to raise the age of criminal responsibility above 10 years old. I am keen to know, Director-General, to what extent was your department—this one or the previous iteration—engaged in that process and on what basis or evidence did the government reject those calls to raise the age?

Dr Sarra: Thank you, member, for your question. I understand your question is about the extent of engagement, but ultimately it is a question of government policy so I am not feeling in a position to respond.

Mr BERKMAN: Sure. If it is a question that needs to go to the minister, I am obviously more than happy to direct it that way, unless there is insight you can give us into that kind of operational interface between the departments involved.

Dr Sarra: Only to reflect that it is a matter that we are seriously concerned about. As the minister rightly points out, it is a matter for government and for cabinet.

Mr BERKMAN: Thank you. If the minister has nothing further on that, I do have a quick follow-up question. Again, looking at that framework of community led decision-making and local empowerment, has the department received feedback that raising the age would enhance that kind of locally driven decision-making?

CHAIR: Sorry, but can I just clarify: who are you asking the question to?

Mr BERKMAN: Sorry, to the director-general.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Dr Sarra: I can advise the member and the committee that we are in an ongoing dialogue with a range of stakeholders. Whilst some will express that particular view, we are in a position where we have to take into account the view of a whole range of stakeholders, but ultimately, as the minister said, it is a matter for government policy.

Mr BERKMAN: Sorry; I do not mean to press. I am just trying to untangle in your experience the view on the ground in communities. Is there in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities broad support for the idea of raising the age of criminal responsibility?

CHAIR: Member, sorry to interrupt, but you are asking the director-general for an opinion, so could you rephrase that question?

Mr BERKMAN: Certainly. Director-General, is it the case, in your experience, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities broadly support the proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility?

Dr Sarra: It is the case that we have received correspondence from stakeholders to that effect, yes.

Mr BERKMAN: Okay; thank you.

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