A 12-year-old Indigenous boy from Australia's Northern Territory addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Wednesday during the 42nd session, appealing to its members to help bring an end to the jailing of children in Australia.
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"I want adults to stop putting 10-year-old kids in jail," Dujuan Hoosan said before the council, becoming the youngest person to speak at the U.N. body.
In his speech to the Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he urged for the criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 to 14, in line with the position of the Australian Medical Association, the Law Council of Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre and Amnesty International.
These groups argue the age of criminal responsibility in Australia needs to brought into line with international standards and law, citing examples in countries such as Norway, Finland, and Sweden where the minimum age of criminal responsibility is 15.
However, in Australia, all states and territories have laws that allow the incarceration of 10-year-old children, despite a 2017 recommendation from the Royal Commission for the Northern Territories’ youth justice system to lift the age of criminal responsibility to 12.
Of the nearly 600 children incarcerated in Australia each year, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids are over-represented. Close to 100 percent of the children jailed in the Northern Territory are Indigenous Australians.
Hoosan himself, who comes from Arrernte and Garrwa country, was almost jailed when he was 10-years-old as he found himself in trouble with the police. Luckily his family intervened and he was taken out of the school system to reconnect with his cultural roots. He then learned about the land and medicinal knowledge passed down from his grandfather.
After his experience, the young boy argues Indigenous-led education and an emphasis on retaining Indigenous languages are key to keeping Aboriginal youth out of jail.
"I want my school to be run by Aboriginal people. I want, in my future, to be able to learn a strong culture and language," he told the UNHRC.