‘Too young’: Linda Burney to partner with states, territories to raise the age of crime

Australia’s Home Secretary says she is determined to raise the age of criminal responsibility across the country.

Her call to action comes because the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Center in the Northern Territory was the site of four self-injury incidents over a weekend, including one attempted suicide.

'Too young': Linda Burney to partner with states, territories to raise the age of crime

It sparked renewed calls for the Northern Territory and all Australian states to follow the lead of the ACT – and last week, Tasmania – to raise the minimum age for crime from 10 to 14.

Nations and the medical world. And lawyers. While the NT Attorney-General confirmed last week that he would “ensure” that the age is raised during this reign, many are concerned that the period will only be extended to 12 rather than 14, as recommended by the United States.

While the age of criminal responsibility is ultimately a matter of individual states and territories, Secretary of Native Affairs Linda Burney says she will ensure it is high on their agenda.

“Ten is too young, and we will work with the states and territories to address it,” she told NCA NewsWire.

Camera Icon There have been several self-injuries in Don Dale in the past week. Photo: Amanda Parkinson Credit: News Corp Australia

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus echoed Ms. Burney’s sentiment and said it was an issue he would raise at a future Attorney General’s meeting.

“Criminal justice is primarily a matter for the states, although Labor believes the Commonwealth can play a leading role in driving reforms,” ​​a Dreyfus spokesperson told NCA NewsWire.

“It is a sad fact that a significant number of children in detention are Indigenous children, and there is a need to invest in programs to address the unacceptably high incarceration rate of Indigenous Australians.”

Any attempt by the federal government to bring states into line with the United Nations crime-age directive will be backed by the Greens, with Senator Lidia Thorpe saying she had more hopes of collaborating with Labor than ever with the coalition.

“I’m hopeful we can get a lot done,” she told NCA NewsWire.

“Definitely (I’ll push) to raise the age to the international standard of 14…but the other thing I’ll talk to and go with (Ms. Burney) is the Bringing Them Home Report.

“Many of our children are still part of the same cycle of intergenerational trauma. I believe implementing those recommendations will also help those children in these torturous prison systems.”


The latest attempt to raise the age comes after four children were taken from Don Dale to the Royal Darwin Hospital in three days due to “intensely distressing” conditions.

One child was a 16-year-old boy believed to have stabbed himself while attempting suicide.

The dismantled adult prison converted into a juvenile detention center on the outskirts of Darwin was due to close in February 2018 following the shattering Royal Commission on the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, but has continued to function.

At least 95 percent of the young people in the center are native Dutch.

DON DALE: Number of children and risks of self-harm

The number of youth incarcerations in the area is up 200 percent from two years ago, with activists saying the “punitive” amendment has exacerbated the situation to bail laws and the still ten years old for the crime.

There are also reports of staffing problems – claims the government has rejected – leading to accusations that children are isolated in their cells for up to 23 hours a day.

No wonder activists say the facility has witnessed a 150 percent rise in self-injury incidents, with many concerned that it’s “only a matter of time” before one dies.

The 16-year-old boy was said to have been left alone in a cell on Friday before harming himself. He was taken to the hospital but was returned to Don Dale after his discharge and placed in isolation again.

He was taken back to the hospital on Sunday.

An NT Families spokesperson said the teen was now back in Don Dale seeking support.


In the second half of 2021, Don Dale reported 54 episodes of self-harm or suicide, compared to just eight over the same period in 2020 — a reflection of a skyrocketing number of children remanded or sentenced to the facility.

Change the Record chief executive Sophie Trivett said there was no “clearer call to action” in the wake of the weekend’s incidents.

“Multiple children in the government’s care are trying to harm themselves because they suffer so much in a government facility,” she told NCA NewsWire.

“This is not an anomaly; it is common for children to injure themselves or attempt suicide due to the intense suffering they experience in these environments.

“Don Dale has been in a crisis since I worked as a juvenile lawyer in the NT during the royal commission … from which it was clear that the building is not fit for its intended purpose.”

Camera IconActivists Call on Secretary of Native Affairs Linda Burney to Change the Age of Crime. NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi Credit: News Corp Australia

Ms. Trivett said the new federal Labor government has a role in urging state and territory governments to raise the minimum age for crime from 10 to 14.

“The new Secretary of State for Indigenous Affairs Linda Burney has (now) officially said that criminalizing children as young as ten years old is far too young,” said Ms. Trivett.

“What we have not seen, however, is the Labor government going one step further and saying ‘we urge our state and territory governments … to raise the age’.”

Ms. Trivett said it would not be enough for states and territories to raise the age to 12 and said 14 had been medically and psychologically proven to be the absolute youngest age at which a child should be subject to the criminal justice system.

Camera Icon Calls for Don Dale’s closure continue. (A) Amanda Parkinson Credit: News Corp Australia


In the past two years, the number of children in detention in the NT has increased by 200 percent, directly related to the government’s new bail laws.

The laws allow minor bail violations — such as failing to charge an electronic recording device — to be treated as serious, leading to children being returned to detention.

In the last six months of 2020, 64 children were held in Territory prisons. That number rose to 199 at the end of 2021.

On Thursday, the NT government said there were 35 youths in Don Dale.

Amnesty International’s Australian advocate for indigenous rights, Maggie Munn, said Don Dale was “dangerous” and that children “have no place in prison at all”.

“When are we going to accept that locking up kids doesn’t work?” they said.

“It doesn’t reduce crime, and it ruins children’s lives. There are better solutions that work, according to the NT Police’s data.

“Instead of children in Don Dale being harmed, they should be sent to programs that help them rejoin school or work, address underlying trauma and health issues, and give them healthy, happy lives.”

DON DALE: Number of unique children in detention NT

Territory Families Secretary Kate Worden said the government continued to make “significant investments” in juvenile justice programs but did not respond to specific questions about when Don Dale would close.

“We have reformed our juvenile detention system, which is not what it was in 2016,” said Ms. Worden.

“We are building a new purpose-built facility in Darwin and are renovating our Alice Springs facility. We have ensured that the new facility will strike a balance between ensuring it is safe, secure, robust, and sustainable while meeting the therapeutic and rehabilitation needs of young people sentenced to detention or remand.”Don’t

Lori J. Kile
I love to write and create. I love photography, design, travel and art. I am a full time freelance writer and photographer.I am very excited to be creating new content and opportunities for my readers.