Archive for April, 2009

Cool new stickers available

April 27, 2009

Thanks to Te Kahui Mana Ririki, we have two cool new stickers available on our Free Stuff page to help spread the bilingual “Papaki Kore – No Smacking” message.

Load up your printer with sticker paper, print, and away you go!



FAQ: Why is the referendum worded so poorly?

April 27, 2009

Q: How did the petition organisers get away with formulating such a dishonest question in the first place, and then getting it accepted for a referendum in the second place?

A: The petitioners submitted their question to the Electoral Commission and there were insufficient objections to require the question to be changed. A significant objection was raised by the Ministry of Justice but this was ignored.  The question was approved and once 10 percent of registered votes signed the petition there was no going back.

You can also view the answers to more Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Seminar at Victoria University on the Child Discipline Law 14 May 2009

April 26, 2009

Seminar announcment

Victoria University of Wellington
Health Services Research Centre
School of Government

New Zealand’s 2007 child discipline law – a post law change report

Beth Wood and
Deborah Morris-Travers

Thursday, 14 May 2009, 12.30 – 1.30pm
Railway 501, Level 5, West Wing Railway Station
(entrance through Railway Station, take Lift 3 to Level 5)
Pipitea Campus, Victoria University, Wellington

In 2007 the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act repealed the existing section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 and replaced it with a new set of provisions which included a clear message that use of force for correction of children was no longer legal in New Zealand.

In this presentation Beth Wood (from EPOCH New Zealand) and Deborah Morris-Travers (from Barnardos New Zealand) will review what is known about public knowledge of the law and attitudes towards it and what is known about how the law is working in practice.

They will discuss the forthcoming referendum on the question, Should a smack as part of good parental discipline be a criminal offence in New Zealand? The discussion will include an analysis of the question and describe a campaign to try to ensure that the non-binding referendum outcome does not threaten the new law.

Feel free to bring your lunch – our seminars are informal
You are welcome to bring your colleagues
RSVPs are not required and there is no charge

Enquiries to: Hilary Stace Ph: 04 463 6569

We encourage you to download the flyer, print it out and post it in your offices!

Section 59 Briefing Sheet

April 24, 2009

A new Section 59 Briefing Sheet is now available online, providing a succinct overview of why Section 59 was amended in 2008, how the law is working in practice, what the law says, and the 2009 referendum.  It’s a great synopsis of the information on the site, in a four-page easily printed document.

You’ll find more good resources on our “more info and downloads” page.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Referendum

April 23, 2009

We’ve just added a Frequently Asked Questions page to

If you have a question about the referendum or the Child Discipline Law that is not answered on the site, you can submit it, and we will consider answering it on the faq page.

Current questions include:

1. Why is a referendum being held on this issue?
2. Why is this particular question being asked?
3. Why are community organisations supporting a Yes vote in the referendum?
4. Is the referendum binding on the government?
5. Why was the change necessary in the first place? Most parents don’t want to hit their children and only use hitting or smacking as a last resort.
6. Doesn’t the law mean that good parents who give their children a light smack will end up as criminals?
7. Doesn’t this cut across parents’ rights to bring their children up in the way they see fit?
8. Shouldn’t parents just be left to get on with bringing up their own children in the way that best suits them, rather than having nanny-state interference?
9. What was the point in changing the law because parents who abuse children will not stop just because of this legislation?
10. It won’t stop the real abuse that’s out there so shouldn’t we instead be focussed on real child abusers and not good parents trying to do a good job?
11. Doesn’t the law create confusion given that Police can use their discretion about whether or not to prosecute?
12. Won’t children grow up spoilt and badly behaved, as the saying goes “spare the rod and spoil the child”?
13. Is it true that most New Zealanders don’t support the legislation, and doesn’t this mean the law needs to be revised?

… All on the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Ian Hassall: Reality check

April 23, 2009

I’ve been away for the weekend and listening to ordinary New Zealanders who have nothing to do with the debate that is about to be replayed over s59 of the Crimes Act.

The slogans, catch-phrases and ready-made opinions you hear in the course of conversation would lead you to believe that too many New Zealanders are bullies and cowards when it comes to how they behave toward their children. It’s all, “They’ve got to learn”, “Teach the little buggers”, “Needs a good hiding” as well as the defiant, “Nobody’s going to tell me how to bring up my kids”.

Perhaps too many of us are bullies and cowards but you do hear different things said that reflect behaviour that I like to think is more the norm. You hear, “They’re only kids”, “You’ve got to love them” and so on, but these phrases come up in discussions only as a late counterpoint to the aggression. It is when the conversation turns to the publicised cases of violence to children that the aggressive expressions are no longer permissible and that is, to a considerable degree, where the support for ending the licenced aggression previously permitted by the Crimes Act has come from. Parliamentarians overwhelmingly supported the s59 change, perhaps because their closer involvement in the debate has made them see the reality more clearly.

We may be beginning to see it too. It’s interesting that efforts to make our casual, everyday expressions of violence toward children square with our horror at the media cases have been largely unsuccessful. The slogan, “We know the difference between a smack and child abuse”, has not been widely believed or taken up. People know in their hearts and fear the connection between their violent feelings and ways of speaking about children, and what they see on television and read in the papers.

Nevertheless, for supporters of the current law this connection may yet be a point of vulnerability. The promoters of the July referendum are trying to exploit it in their ads by saying that the law change has not stopped child abuse. This statement, although absurd (even the grisliest of dictators and the most charismatic of reformers don’t bring about instant social change), does have some popular resonance. It suggests meddling by the child rights supporters in something they don’t understand that is possibly unchangeable anyway.

Fortunately, that is probably not the way an increasing number of New Zealanders see it. Barnardos, Plunket, Unicef, and Save the Children deal with these matters in their day-to-day work. Their membership and the many who have joined with them are the voices of New Zealanders who have had enough of violence toward children. They support the law as it now stands.

The coming replay of the public debate needs to build on and build up rhetoric that will capture New Zealanders’ goodwill toward children and preparedness to give them a fair go. It will also be an expression of the shame and anger most New Zealanders feel at the violence suffered by so many children. But it may need more than that. The brutality of our popular discourse toward children may need to be exposed. To be named and shamed as the cowards and bullies we sound like and are when we use this language and behaviour. Most people are alarmed and sickened by observing actual violence toward children and would be surprised to hear how they sound in their casual conversation about them.

An American documentary on a television show a few years ago had this effect. It was a fly-on-the-wall record of a household in which a child was repeatedly threatened and struck in a routine, almost reflexive way. In another sequence, a child was put into a prolonged state of fear waiting for her father to come home to administer punishment and was then punished using such cold-blooded, deliberate infliction of pain as to disturb any viewer with the least compassion.

This should be shown again at a suitable time in the lead up to the referendum. It is as well that we couldn’t now make a similar documentary in this country in view of the amendment to s59 but it would be useful to make and screen a documentary that captured the language we use in relation to children.

The reality of our discourse and the behaviour of some of us toward children reflected back to New Zealanders would, I believe, help us understand better the need for the present law.

Ian Hassall is a paediatrician and children’s advocate. He was New Zealand’s first Commissioner for Children and before that Medical Director for the Plunket Society. He is Senior Research Fellow for the Institute of Public Policy at AUT, and part of the Every Child Counts campaign to place children’s interests at the centre of government. He teaches the undergraduate paper, Children and Public Policy.

Four studies: smacking leads to sexual coersion and risky sex

April 22, 2009

Dr Murray Straus is a Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, and a former president of the National Council on Family Relations.

In February 2008, he gave a presentation to the American Psychological Association Summit Conference on Violence and Abuse in Interpersonal Relationship entitled Corporal Punishment of Children and Sexual Behavior Problems: results from four studies.

The studies show some interesting yet frightening results about the effects of smacking children, including

  • The more smacking, the more antisocial behaviour two years later
  • Smacking is related to physical aggression, psychological aggression, and property crimes
  • Corporal punishment before age 12 significantly increases the probability of future verbal and physical sexual coersion
  • Corporal punishment as a child significantly increases the probability of risky sex (insisting on sex without a condom and approval of violence)
  • The more corporal punishment as a child, the greater the probability of risky sex as an adult

Many people who condone smacking their children say that it should only be done lovingly, but Straus’s research shows that the link between corporal punishment and masochistic sex is greatest when the parents are warm and loving.

Straus’s presentation concludes with a suggestion that birth certificates should contain a warning:

Spanking has been shown to be dangerous to your child’s health and well being.

For more information, download the presentation.

The best support group ever

April 21, 2009 has been live less than two weeks now, but we’ve already managed to attract a fantastic list of supporters.

The list includes NGO’s, health care providers, blogs, professional organisations, private companies, religious organisations, concerned individuals, and others.

We update our list regularly, and we’d love you to register yourself and/or your organisation on our supporters page.

The striking thing about this list is that it is mainly composed of people who have to deal with the consequences of physical punishment, and thus have an interest in doing whatever they can to prevent it.  These are the ambulances at the bottom of the cliff who have built a fence at the top, and don’t want to see it torn down.

We’re interested in your own views and/or stories from your organisations that we can publish on  If you’d like to submit an item for publication, please contact us.

We’d also appreciate it if you linked to from your own web sites and blogs – let’s get the word out as widely as possible among the best support group ever.

So far, the following organisations have recently registered their support for The Yes Vote Campaign 2009:

And the following individuals have also registered their support for the 2009 Campaign:

  • Catherine Fletcher
  • Rebecca Reveley
  • Margaret Smith

Te Ture Whakatōtika Tamariki

April 20, 2009

He aha tōna tikanga mō tōu whānau?
E whakamārama ana tēnei pukapuka:

  • he aha i tīnihia ai te ture tawhito (tekiona 59 o te Pire Takahi-i-te-ture)
  • he aha e pai ai i tīnihia te ture
  • he aha te tikanga o te ture inaeanei
  • Pire Whakahōunga Takahi-i-te-Ture 2007 (Tekiona 59 whakakapi)
  • he aha kua tūpono nō te tīnihanga o te ture.

E whakamārama ana hoki te pukapuka nei i te kaupapa “Whakatōtika i runga anō i te Aroha.”

A pamphlet is now available free for download explaining Aotearoa / New Zealand’s Child Discipline Law in Te Reo Māori.

Study links smacking to physical abuse

April 19, 2009

In a study published by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in August 2008, mothers who reported that they or their partner spanked their child in the past year were nearly three times more likely to state that they also used harsher forms of punishment than those who say their child was not spanked.

Such punishments included behaviors considered physically abusive by the researchers, such as beating, burning, kicking, hitting with an object somewhere other than the buttocks, or shaking a child less than 2 years old.

“In addition, increases in the frequency of spanking are associated with increased odds of abuse, and mothers who report spanking on the buttocks with an object – such as a belt or a switch – are nine times more likely to report abuse, compared to mothers who report no spanking with an object,” said Adam J. Zolotor, M.D., the study’s lead author and an assistant professor in the department of family medicine in the UNC School of Medicine.

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Plunket Barnardos Save the Children Unicef Jigsaw Ririki Parents CentrePaediatric Society Womens Refuge Epoch

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The bottom line is that we want to play by the rules. We appreciate your support, but please act ethically, thoughtfully, and within the law.

Please see our Legal Disclaimer for more information.