Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility

Advocates Perspectives and An Urgent Call for Action


  • Chloe Maddison University of South Australia
  • Carole Zufferey University of South Australia
  • Kerry Maxfield University of South Australia


Advocacy, Social Work, Social Justice, First Nations, Criminal responsibility


For over two decades, advocates have urged the Australian government to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 because Australia is failing to live up to its international agreements on children’s human rights. Despite the amount of advocacy work around raising the age, minimal research has sought to understand the role of advocacy in this space. This social work research project addressed this gap by gathering the perspectives of six advocates regarding the challenges they face and what sustains them in their advocacy. The semi structured interviews with advocates were then thematically analysed. Three key themes were found. The first theme referred to the advocacy challenges associated with the power of politics including the lack of political will and complexities of governments. The second theme on speaking to power illustrated how advocates demonstrated a significant emotional commitment to social justice. The third theme on advocates listening to diverse voices included listening to the voices of First Nations Peoples as this issue that predominantly affects First Nations children; the voices of young people with lived experience and the voices of evidence. This research highlights the tenacity and resilience of advocates in raising the age of criminal responsibility.


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