Smacking on notice

Mounting evidence of the harmful effects of corporal punishment of children and a directive from the United Nations are leading to calls to ban this practice in the home.

The United Nations (UN) Committee Against Torture has directed Australia to put an outright ban on corporal punishment, extending from the school gate into the home.

This stern response followed a submission to the United Nations from Dean of Law Professor Patrick Keyzer as part of the Australian Permanent Mission’s regular review of the status of Australia’s human rights.

The submission included comments on corporal punishment of children, underpinned by research findings of the Australian Child Maltreatment Study of which Professor Daryl Higgins, Director of the Institute of Child Protection Studies, is one of the chief investigators.

The study has found that 61 per cent of Australians aged 16–24 have experienced corporal punishment on more than three occasions. It has also found that children and young people subjected to such punishment at the hands of their parents and caregivers are up to twice as likely to develop anxiety and depression.

“It comes as a surprise, both for the general public, but also for people researching in the child abuse and neglect space, that something we know is so harmful is still happening at such a high rate,” said Professor Higgins.

Professor Higgins said Australia needs to step up in our role as signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which we ratified on 17 December 1990. By signing up, Australia made a commitment to respect children’s rights, but there has been no change to the legal framework that allows “reasonable” physical punishment of children as a common law defence for parents and carers.

“Many people are shocked that it’s still legal for Australian parents to use reasonable force to discipline their children,” said Professor Keyzer.

If you want to support the end of physical punishment of children and protect Australian children from physical abuse, add your name to this petition and help lift the number of signatures to 1,000.

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