“Growing up, my idol was my grandpa. He was my favourite friend from day one – I have memories of how he would let me follow him around the house, the garage, and even up on the roof as he was repairing it.
He was a loving, giving, intelligent, hard-working, and fun human who had a profound impact on my life as I was growing up.
Thinking back to my childhood between the ages of 10 and 13, I lived for and loved everything gymnastics.
I wanted nothing more than to be an American Olympic gymnast.
Of course, it has to be said that most female gymnasts peak in their mid-teens, but being a child myself, 16 felt so grown-up and mature in my mind.
Recalling my biggest fears as a child, I have always been afraid of spiders and snakes! I have a theory that it has something to do with legs – less than two or more than four and I’m scared.
One of my greatest childhood memories goes back to my love of gymnastics, where I had fallen and gotten scared of performing a back-handspring back tuck.
My mom knew I needed to get over my fear because I had the skill, so she used her knowledge of something else I really wanted to motivate me. She told me if I threw the handspring tuck in my next gymnastics meet, I could get a puppy!
So I did it (with closed eyes and a racing heart), and I was rewarded with a puppy! I aptly named him Tucker. This is still one of my best and happiest memories from this time in my life.
But when I think about children as young as 10 going to prison in Australia, it hurts my heart.
For me, 10 is an age where I would overcome a fear to get a puppy, yet kids can be sent to prison.
I can only imagine what incentives could be used or perceived that would further pressure young kids to make some of the decisions they make, especially if they’re coming from a place of need.
And while most of us intuitively know that sending a 10-year-old to prison cannot be good, we now have scientific evidence to confirm it!
In fact, sending kids to prison actually increases the likelihood they will get into trouble later in life.
The Queensland Family and Child Commission reports children arrested before the age of 14 are three times more likely than children arrested after 14 years to re-offend as adults (Queensland Family & Child Commission, 2017).
Not only are there emotional, developmental, physical and neurobiological impacts of sending children to prison, but it can also likely change their future life trajectory!
Being an evidence and data enthusiast, I have a hard time accepting when decisions are made that disregard knowledge. We KNOW better so now we need to DO better.
I think what children between the ages of 10 and 14 years old need to become successful adults are people and systems that help them develop self-esteem, self-worth, and a sense of belonging.
Simple enough, right?!
Unfortunately, this simplicity takes for granted that not all kids have a reliable environment, trusted adults to guide them, opportunities to grow, connectivity, encouragement, and problem-solving skills.
Knowing that there is scientific evidence that shows the deep impacts of sending children as young as 10 to prison, I wholeheartedly support the Raise the Age WA campaign to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least the age of 14.”
To read more about the Raise the Age WA campaign, click here.
-  2017, Queensland Family & Child Commission, The age of criminal responsibility in Queensland, p.30, accessed 6 August 2018.