MercyCare / News / Suzanne Caren: Why I support the Raise the Age campaign

Suzanne Caren: Why I support the Raise the Age campaign

“Growing up, my idol was my Uncle Paul. There was no-one else on this earth who lit up a room and made me laugh the way that he did.

As my dad’s younger brother, he was always in our house, coffee in hand and always had some really tall tale to share.

My parents immigrated to Australia in the mid 80s and Paul came to stay with us on a Working Visa when he was 18 and just never left – I thought he was the coolest person ever.

Looking back now, I idolised him because we didn’t have any other family in Australia and he taught me what it meant to be kind, funny, compassionate and how to tell a hilarious story.

When I was younger I wanted to be an archaeologist. I loved all things history, and I still do. The thought of travelling to a far off land and uncovering some piece of history, an item that had a story, a past and a meaning sounded like the most exciting job in the world.

However I found an even more thrilling profession – Youth Work. Working with young people who have history, a story and a past is a privilege. Being trusted to walk alongside young people is a privilege. I can’t call it a job because it isn’t work — it’s simply a privilege.

One of my biggest fears as a child was dogs –  big, small, on a leash, off a leash, I’m petrified of them! I grew up in an apartment in the outer suburbs of SYdney so we couldn’t have pets, and this led to a lifelong fear of dogs!

But my fears pale in comparison to what some of our youth face today. When I think of children as young as 10 going to prison in Australia, I feel physically sick.

Punishing children by putting them in prison at such a young age is inconceivable.

How can we as a community, think that disadvantaging children, who are largely socially, physically and emotionally disadvantaged, OK?

When we are born, we are a blank slate, it is our experiences who make us who we are.

If as a child your life experiences are difficult how can you be expected to act any other way than what you think is right or what you know will help you to survive.

Children need love, compassion, safety, education and an opportunity to thrive – fear is not the answer – harsh punishment is not the answer – isolation is not the answer – prison is not the answer.  

Young people have voices, opinions, fears, wants and dreams – it’s time to pause, reflect and change. This is why I support the Raise the Age WA campaign, because I strongly believe that children as young as 10 should not spend the most impressionable years of their childhood behind bars.”

To read more about the Raise the Age WA campaign, click here.