The Smack – Is It Legal?
To smack or not to smack; that is the question. Its a much debated theme should you physically discipline your kids? These days are you even allowed to?
The smacking debate has frequently come under the spotlight.
Historically, using force to keep kids in line was the done thing. But in 2006 the United Nations (UN) released a report urging that all forms of corporal punishment (however light) be abolished, including at home. Domestic corporal punishment basically means when a parent or guardian spanks or smacks their child, either with an open hand or using an implement like a belt, to correct their behaviour.
Its now illegal in over 25 countries in the world, including much of Europe, (Sweden was the first) and our neighbour, New Zealand. In many other countries its legal but not encouraged.
Here, while you may get a few disapproving glares; the law allows you to smack your own children. Within reason. It has to be for the purpose of discipline, and the punishment has to be reasonable in relation to the childs age, maturity and health, and the circumstances surrounding their naughtiness.
In 2001 the NSW Crimes Act was amended to include some strict guidelines for punishing kids using force. You cant apply physical force to a childs head or neck. Thats considered unreasonable and could be deemed physical abuse. Its also unreasonable to use force in a way that would likely cause harm lasting for more than a short period.
In NSW the Education Act bans corporal punishment in schools.
In April the federal government released national regulations relating to the care and treatment of kids in daycare, family daycare and after-school care (the Education and Care Services National Act). Victoria has already passed the legislation, with other Australian states and territories to follow.
Under the new law childcare centres are banned from using any form of corporal punishment. One guideline causing something of a stir says that kids in childcare cant be separated from the other kids unless theyre sick or injured. In other words, no naughty corner or time out for unacceptable behaviour. Thats considered to be inappropriate discipline and the penalty is $2000.
Like the smacking debate, some believe this is unnecessary government interference. Theres also a call for clarification of some of the key terms, like separation.
No doubt the issue of whether discipline should be the domain of parents, carers or governments will continue to be controversial.
The UN suggested a target of 2009 for UN states to have prohibited all forms of corporal punishment by law. Clearly were on the naughty list (but not in the naughty corner). Time will tell whether Australia moves in that direction.