17 year olds now part of the youth justice system!

Until recently, Queenslanders who were 17 years old were subject to the adult criminal justice system, in breach of Australia’s obligations as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) – even though they cannot vote or legally buy alcohol or tobacco products or marry without the permission of their parents or court.

Queensland remained the only Australian state or territory where this was the case for many years.


Following decades of lobbying by YAC and other youth focussed organisations the Queensland Palaszczuk Government finally took the action needed and introduced legislation in 2016 to raise the threshold for a young person to be treated as an adult in the criminal justice system to 18 years.  The change was passed by Parliament in late 2016 and became law in February 2018 (time was needed to put in place transitional processes in place for those in the system at the time of the change). The last young person left adult prison in November 2018, completing the changeover.

This means 17 year olds now have the same protections in terms of their engagement with police and court processes as 10-16 year olds have had since 1992 at least.

Here is the story of how this finally came about, told by Damien Atkinson, YAC’s Chair.

See also:

Hear Shane Duffy, CEO, ATSILS (Qld) speak with Ellen Fanning on ABC Radio National breakfast.

Hear Damien Atkinson speak with Steve Austin on ABC 612 mornings.