Johny O’Donnell: Listen to what youth are saying

June 1, 2009

I was recently told by a parent “you wouldn’t understand you’re not a parent and you’ve got no idea what it’s like”. This comment is something I typically hear as a young advocate for anti-violence and a strong supporter of the 2007 Child Discipline Law.

Luckily I have made my mind up and I won’t stop campaigning and making my voice heard in the community. For other youth they’re not so confident, when it’s an issue as crucial as Section 59 they hold back and tend to not speak their voices to others. I think this is a real shame because as young people we have a very good idea of what we want, I have spoken to many youth about this issue and they too believe that children need to be protected.

I have a vision that the Section 59 referendum will bring together youth who want to make a difference. I am the co-founder of a group called Students Against Violence and the general feeling amongst our group is disgust, disgust that over 300,000 people could sign a petition that really justifies hitting a child.

We want to raise youth voices on this issue and ultimately make sure children are protected by the law. In an issue about children that will directly affect children it is a shame we have no democratic say in the issue.

Another issue that we are having as youth campaign for the Child Discipline Law is the negativity we receive from the public. The feeling we get is that people can’t handle youth having their say and that people have a belief that we aren’t justified to speak our voices on an issue that directly affects us.

Our message to New Zealand is that as youth we need a say on this issue and it is clear there is strong opposition to us speaking out. We do not understand why people want to justify hitting a child and why people want to have a law that says its okay to do so.

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

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