MercyCare / News / Vicky Gonzalez Burrows: Why I support the Raise the Age campaign

Vicky Gonzalez Burrows: Why I support the Raise the Age campaign

“Thinking back to my most vivid memories as a 12-year-old, I recall how I had always wanted to be a doctor because I loved the idea of being able to help others and make a difference.

At that age, I was an active child ­- I did Little Athletics, I played netball and I did Bush Rangers (kind of like Scouts), so I was very lucky have been given the opportunity to take part in a range of activities.

Aside from sport, I also loved music and I played the clarinet.

But when I think about what I was like at the age of 12, I couldn’t fathom other children my age being in prison. In fact, the thought of going to prison never entered my mind when I was 12.

Medical research has shown that a 10 and 12-year-olds does not have the ability to understand their actions and the consequences that follow, and this is not something they develop until they are at least 14.

I have seen firsthand the impacts that prison life can have on young people, which is why I strongly support the Raise the Age campaign to lift criminal responsibility in children from age 10 to at least 14.

In my previous role as a Chaplain at Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre, I worked with 10-year-olds who were serving time in prison.

I have memories of some of them giggling with childish joy, being silly and playing around just like any other 10-year-old.

In another role, where I was a senior youth worker running night engagement programs and camps for eight to 14-year-olds, I saw a huge difference in these young peoples’ lives because we had invested time in them and supported them.

As such, I think it’s vital that we provide more wraparound support to these young people, their families and communities.

We need to invest in early intervention programs starting from the womb, through to early childhood education and even through parenting and family support groups.

By building healthy communities, we are providing much-needed support to families and young people.

Now as a mother of a toddler and step-mother of teenagers, I have had the privilege of seeing these young people grow each day learning about the world and themselves.

I’ve seen them make mistakes and learn from them, but I also know that an environment like detention would not be one that would bring out the best in them.

By supporting the Raise the Age campaign, I hope that we can make a difference in the lives of these young people and give them a chance to grow and reach their full potential.”

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