Archive for July, 2009

Video: Kayne Peters talks about the referendum

July 26, 2009

TVNZ6 Kidzone host Kayne Peters talks about the referendum on video:

There should be programmes and models … for parents and adults to show them how to discipline our tamariki, our children in a good and healthy way.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/aBoZ08p7H3M" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Rodney So’oialo: Hitting a child makes you weak

July 24, 2009

In an article in this week’s NZ Women’s Weekly, All Black and Wellington Hurricanes captain Rodney So’oialo speaks out in support of positive parenting and the current Child Discipline Law.

Rodney says, “It isn’t necessary to physically discipline your children… Hitting a child doesn’t make you tough, it makes you weak.”

Read the entire article.  Thanks to Rodney and the NZ Women’s Weekly!

rodney

Student compares violence to ripples on a lake

July 23, 2009

Students Against Violence Everywhere spokesperson, Johnny O’Donnell reported recently a conversation he had with a fellow student which produced a thoughtful and apposite  quote:

“I asked the boy, 15 and Maori, to come up with a quote for the Yes Vote campaign and later that day he said:

“Violence is a ripple effect. It starts off as a drop in the water but soon creates a ripple effect which disturbs all the waters. This is no different than smacking a child. It may start as a smack but can trigger other violent behaviours from both the parent and the child. We need to keep our waters calm and let children have peace in their own homes”.

He later emailed me with this addition:

“The ripple also does not just affect the child, it ripples in its destructive path to affect the whanau and friends of that child.”

Making sense of police statistics

July 18, 2009

On 10 July 2009 the Police released their 4th six-monthly report on Police activity since the statutory defence for assault on a child was removed from the Crimes Act 1961.

In an article printed in the New Zealand Herald [11 July] –  “Big jump in child assaults reports” by  Simon Collins claims that the number of minor assaults reported to the police has jumped 40% since the three month period before the law change.  Taken at face value this could be interpreted as the 2007 law leading to a huge increase in the number of “good” parents being referred to the Police for correcting their children by simply smacking them. This is not the case.

To understand why, it’s important to knowhow the Police categorise the cases they report on.  Police do not spell out the nature of the events involved in the cases they report but only say that, The terms “smacking”, “minor acts of physical discipline” and “other child assaults” are terms created for monitoring purposes so that the reviews accurately reflect the complex nature and context of each case.  But in fact they represent a hierarchy with “other child assaults” being the heavier end of physical punishment.

By putting the categories together, looking at monthly averages and coming up with the 40% figure Simon creates a misleading impression.

If we use Simon’s average per month approach separately for each category we find that where “smacking” is concerned there is less than a 1% increase between the three month period before the law change and the figures reported in the last Police review.  But in fact the numbers reported are so small that it is nonsense to talk percentages at all. About 1 case a month in the three month before law change and about 1.03 in the last review period is not a statistically significant change.

Looking at the “minor acts of physical discipline category” we find that there has been a 100% increase between the three month period before law reform and the last set of figures.  But in fact we are talking about the difference between say 3 cases a month and 6 cases a month – again too small a number to be meaningful.

In the third category “Other Child Assault” we are looking at a rise from about 27 cases a month to 34 cases a month in the relevant periods – a little over 25% increase – but again 7 cases is not a statistically significant change.

The slight increase in reporting at the heavier ends of physical punishment should be interpreted positively – as demonstrating a greater willingness on the part of the public to report concerns about the way a child is treated – and as making more opportunities for parents to be given support and guidance to manage their children’s behaviour in more positive ways.

The case of the Christchurch ‘ear-flick’ Dad who apparently punched his child on the face and was given an anger management sentence illustrates the point.

We must also keep in mind that the total number of prosecutions in the  “smacking” and minor acts of physical discipline categories has been vey small over the whole period.

Young people urged to vote online on Referendum 09

July 18, 2009

Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) are holding an online referendum of their own and are encouraging young people to log on and vote.

SAVE chair, Johny O’Donnell says: “The time has come for youth to stand up and make their opinions heard on Referendum 09 and SAVE is proud to provide that opportunity.”

If you are under 25 – or know someone who is – please take this referendum survey at:

www.savemovement.org/yesvotevoice.html

“Spread this message, post up on Facebook, Bebo, MySpace and Twitter,” he says. “Let’s get the message out there that young people deserve a say!”

Results will be posted on the SAVE website, sent to the media and to Yes and No vote websites and well as all 121 MPs.

The Bible’s harsh view rejected

July 17, 2009

Dominion Post columnist, Ian Harris, rejects the Biblical instructions on how discipline children and favours a more enlightened view.

Child discipline referendum will not give clarity

July 17, 2009

Press Release: Caritas Aotearoa

Caritas says child discipline referendum will not provide clarity.

Catholic social justice agency Caritas says the upcoming referendum on child discipline will not provide clarity on the issue. “Funding for the referendum could have been better used on family education,” says Director Mike Smith.

Caritas supports the 2007 amendment that was eventually made to Section 59 of the Crimes Act, and wishes to see the legal status quo maintained, regardless of the referendum outcome.

The debate leading up to the law change was always about balancing child protection and family subsidiarity – the ability of families to make decisions for themselves without undue government interference.

“Caritas submitted in 2006 that Catholic social teaching required that both be taken into account. In our opinion, that meant giving greater protection for children, and also defining the threshold for prosecution,” says Mr Smith.

“The final wording of the amendment regarding police discretion not to prosecute for ‘inconsequential’ acts met our concerns. It was also in line with the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference 2007 statement on the issue: Children are precious gifts, which also sought a solution between polarised extremes of the debate at that time.”

Mr Smith says the upcoming referendum will not provide clarity on the question of child discipline, because it is possible to support the 2007 amendment while voting either Yes or No to the referendum question: Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

However, Caritas recognises that in the political context of the referendum, a ‘Yes’ vote is seen to be a vote for the status quo, while a ‘No’ vote is seen to be a vote against the 2007 amendment.

“In this context, we recommend a ‘Yes’ vote, as we believe the status quo is close to the position that we recommended to the Select Committee. However, the wording of the question is so ambiguous, many New Zealanders who support efforts to reduce violence against children, may in good conscience still feel obliged to vote ‘No’. It will be hard to understand what the outcome of the referendum may mean,” says Mr Smith.

He says Caritas will be writing to the Prime Minister and other relevant politicians, expressing concern that the ambiguous nature of the question will result in an outcome that cannot be understood as either supporting or opposing the 2007 amendment.

“We will make it clear that, whatever the outcome of the referendum, we support the 2007 amendment to the Crimes Act. This was the best compromise able to be found at the time which increased child protection, while also taking into account the subsidiarity of families and preventing unnecessary prosecutions.”

Mr Smith says protecting children from physical violence requires action in many other areas, including parental education on alternatives to physical punishment. “In the best interests of families, we would like to see parents able to increase their knowledge of options they have to control their children’s behaviour. That’s where funds could have been better used.”

  • Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 164 Catholic aid, development and social justice agencies active in over 200 countries and territories.

Report prompts call to action from new Children’s Commissioner

July 16, 2009

Efforts to prevent the tragic deaths of children in New Zealand must not be allowed to slow down, new Children’s Commissioner John Angus urged today on the release of a report into maltreatment of young children.

The report, Death and serious injury from assault of children under 5 years in Aotearoa New Zealand: A review of international literature, was commissioned by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and reviewed common risk factors for death and injury from abuse in New Zealand and worldwide.

“Every year about 45 children under 5 years old are seriously injured and around five are killed because they are maltreated at the hands of people they should be able to trust.  That’s a distressing statistic,” John Angus said.

“And sadly, as this reports suggests, it is very young babies that are most at risk of abuse. Their vulnerability means that almost all forms of assault can lead to serious injury and death. It only takes a small slap to the head or a short shake of a baby to do real harm.

“The report also highlights some risks we need to give more attention to in this country. For instance, there is a particular risk when babies are left in the care of young men who are not biological fathers. They are often totally unprepared for the stresses of a crying baby and may already have problems with anger or alcohol abuse.

“International research has found that they often lash out in an attempt to ‘silence’ the child. With knowledge like this we can make sure that funding and resources to reduce child abuse are directed to the right places and at the right people.

“For instance, I would strongly urge government agencies to consider funding the Shaken Baby Prevention Programme – which is currently being looked at closely by the Auckland DHB.

“This successful international programme, based on robust research, is an excellent example of practical action being taken to reduce child abuse.

“The programme targets parents of newborns, including fathers, to give them information about infants’ vulnerability to brain injury and to teach them how to deal with the frustration of a baby crying inconsolably. One American study of the programme found a 47 per cent decrease in head injuries caused by Shaken Baby Syndrome.

“I would strongly recommend this programme is piloted in Auckland and the results evaluated. If effective it could be introduced New Zealand-wide.”

Report co-authors Mavis Duncanson, Don Smith and Emma Davies suggest that child abuse is often the result of a multitude of risk factors within families. It is compounding factors like a previous history of violence, impending parental separation and a lack of antenatal care that can suggest a higher risk of child abuse.

“Reviews like the one I’m releasing today make an important contribution to what we already know about the risks to young children and to the work underway to reduce the rate of abuse and neglect,” said John Angus.

“My intention during my time as Commissioner is to use evidence like this to support recommendations on matters concerning children and to ensure that such information is used to good effect by health, education and child protection agencies.

“I’m pleased that CYF and health services are already focusing on the prevention of abuse and neglect amongst infants, for example in the changes to the Well Child services.

“We simply cannot afford to ignore the harm done to our children – it is a significant issue for New Zealand and one that requires the full efforts of all those working with families and young children.”

Encouragement from a former Commissioner for Children in Tasmania

July 15, 2009

Dear YesVote team

New Zealand has shown real moral leadership with their law reform on physical punishment for children and I congratulate all who worked hard for the repeal of an unjust law against children. I strongly support your endeavours in opposing the unethical and misguided referendum question soon to be put to the vote .

I want to comment on the upcoming referendum on “smacking”.

I am not surprised that both your Prime Minister and Opposition leader will not be voting in a referendum that is so awkward and misleading in its wording. Their concerns reportedly include the fact that the question can be seen in many ways and that voting will send a wrong message. I agree with them but I worry that those not in favour of smacking will let those who are, win by abstaining from the vote. Yet if only a small number actually vote, or vote “no”, that in itself should send a strong message to the public and government. Nevertheless I encourage supporters of children’s safety to register a strong “yes” vote.

I have seen reports in the Weekend Australian (5/7/09), about two recent cases you had in Wellington and Christchurch. In one a father appears to have pushed a 7 year old child at a sports event repeatedly and another had intentional forced contact with his 4 year old son’s ear in a park. Can either be classified as a “smack” as one was repeated pushing to the ground and the other a “cuff” to the ear? Both would have been hurtful and humiliating to the children, but sadly it appears that some in favour of the use of smacking as a “good” parenting tool may be using these cases to support theirs. I wonder if I can ask a few questions about the terms of the referendum and these cases?

  • Do these acts of pushing and striking amount to “smacks” to opposers of reform?
  • Are these parental actions loving acts?
  • Do they show parental respect for the child’s perspectives and worries?
  • Are they examples of “good” parenting?
  • Can homes with such activities be homes filled with love?
  • Do those who believe this is good parenting believe in “light” smacks too?
  • Do voters really want to permit such adult misbehaviour against children?
  • How can “good “parenting include actions that police class as assaults?
  • How is teaching children by smacking them “good” parenting?
  • Is it “good” practice to smack under 18s like apprentices, cadets etc?
  • Will such under 18s learn better with this type of teaching tool?
  • Is it not illegal to teach horses, dogs and circus animals by smacking them?
  • Should the small number of charges require a change in the new law?
  • Why would members of parliament change the law that a majority accepted?
  • Why is it OK to use such large funding to promote the cause of those who want to hit children?

New Zealand has been a fine example to other countries where child advocates speak out for law reform on legalised physical punishment too. I hope for the sake of the children of the world that your politicians remain steadfast in their support for equal protection for children.

Best wishes

Patmalar Ambikapathy

Barrister and Human Rights Consultant for Children

Talking about voting ‘yes’

July 14, 2009

Listen to this latest Collaborative Voices programme

Tags:

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

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