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The Australian Capital Territory has made the nation’s first tentative steps towards raising the age of criminal responsibility for children from 10 to 14 years. 

The state’s Legislative Assembly voted in favour of the change when a Greens motion was introduced to the Parliament on 20 August. The Labor government agreed to start early planning on legislation to support the change but warned it could take some time. 

“It’s certainly not a stroke-of-the-pen sort of thing,” Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay told The Canberra Times.

Ramsay said he preferred a national approach through the Council of Attorneys-General.

“It’s very clear that the best outcome for the children of Australia … would be for us to have national consensus on this matter,” Ramsay said. “I will continue work with other jurisdictions and we want to make sure that children are diverted from the criminal justice system.

ACT Law Society President Chris Donohue said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the decision.

“The proposal, brought before the Assembly by Shane Rattenbury MLA, brings us one step closer to this much-overdue reform. We should be treating children like children, not criminals,” Donohue said.