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Ban detention for under-16s, justice inquiry tells govt

Paul Miller/AAP PHOTOS

Offenders aged under 16 should avoid jail even if they commit murder, say recommendations handed down by Victoria's first truth-telling inquiry.

The findings from the Yoorrook Justice Commission's probe into the state's child protection and criminal justice systems were made in an interim report tabled in Victorian parliament on Monday.

The commissioners heard Indigenous families and communities were being routinely failed, resulting in devastating and ongoing harm.

One of the 46 recommendations called on the Victorian government to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 and ban detention of children under 16.

The age of criminal liability in Victoria is 10, but the state government has committed to raising it to 12 next year and to 14 by 2027.

Deputy chair Sue-Anne Hunter urged the government to dump the plan to stagger the changes.

"We want it to be the age of 14 - with no exceptions," she told reporters.

When asked if the same stance would apply to a child who had committed murder, Ms Hunter stood firm.

"There's no high statistic of that, but at the end of the day these are kids and kids don't murder people for no reason," she said.

"Generally with children, something has happened with them."

Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday said the government would look at each of the recommendations line by line, and it intended to "deliver against each of the areas that Yoorrook has highlighted where there is a need for reform".

However, he stood by the government's staggered approach to raising the age in an indication the government was unlikely to commit to banning detention for children under 16.

"That's not consistent with the announcements that the government's already made in relation to raising the age of criminal responsibility," Mr Andrews told reporters.

"Except for the most serious of crimes, sending kids to crime school is not necessarily a very smart thing to do."

The United Nations, child welfare groups, medical experts, human rights lawyers and Indigenous advocates say the benchmark for criminal responsibility should be no lower than 14.

The report also called for the Victorian government to transfer decision-making power, authority, control and resources to Aboriginal communities in the criminal legal system and child protection system.

The premier noted the report included "ambitious" timelines.

The commission said the Andrews government should get to work immediately on its urgent recommendations so they could be achieved in the next 12 months.

"We all need to push each other to do more and do better," Mr Andrews said.

"What I'm not, however, going to do is necessarily sign up to that 12 months because I don't know that that can be delivered."

The premier pointed to the government's agreed timeline to have 70 per cent of Aboriginal children in care managed by an Aboriginal-controlled child protection service by 2027.

The governments wants to have 100 per cent of Aboriginal children in care managed by an Aboriginal-controlled service by 2030.

"That's not 12 months off. That's going to take some time," Mr Andrews said.

Ms Hunter, quoting a letter from Mr Andrews describing the significant over-representation of First Peoples in the child protection and criminal justice system as a "source of great shame", called on him to walk the walk.

Yoorrook is due to hand down its final report in 2025.