Smacking children in Australia is quite common place, and I find that there is at least one tantrum and smacking episode occurring somewhere in the isles of my local grocery store just about every time I visit.
In NSW parents and guardians have a legal defence that allows them to discipline children provided the punishment is reasonable.
However, although it is commonly accepted in Australia, we are going against the international trend to ban smacking.
Several other countries have banned all corporal punishment of children. These include Austria, Denmark, Italy, Israel and several other European countries. Nearby neighbour New Zealand has also banned smacking. The UN committee on the rights of the child also condemns the practice.
Frequently in the Family Court Judges restrain parents from using physical punishment to discipline children and make orders to this effect.
In a 2007 case where a father smacked his three year old son for refusing to pick up his toys the Court said “there can be no defence of corporal punishment for young children in an advanced western civilised society”.
Certainly in parenting matters whether or not a parent smacks a child will frequently be raised by the other parent in their affidavit. What one parent regards as smacking the other parent may refer to as “hitting”. Parties should be aware that whether or not they smack their children is likely to be raised in parenting court proceedings.
One view is that parents should have some say in how they raise their own children and the law should not control this. Arguably it is hard to find any way to verbally explain to a child how their behaviour is incorrect without smacking when they are very young.
Another view is that children need at least equal (if not more) protection and rights from physical harm than adults and there is no reason smacking should be socially or legally accepted.
If you have any questions regarding the issues raised in this blog please contact us at Armstrong Legal on 9261 4555.