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Mission Accomplished

October 17, 2010

The Yes Vote website will no longer be updating New Zealand news.

The Yes Vote website was set up before the 2009 referendum on physical punishment of children. Its purposes were to engage support for New Zealand’s law banning physical punishment of children and to share information about related issues. It is now over a year since the referendum and the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 remains intact.

A Private Members aimed at overturning the 2007 law by reintroducing a statutory defence into the Crimes Act 1961 was soundly defeated recently in Parliament.

Police monitoring of the implementation of the 2007 law indicates that the law is being implemented sensitively and sensibly and that there has been no increase in prosecutions of parents for minor and occasional smacking of children. For more information, see the Seventh Review of Police Activity Enactment of the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007.

The Yes Vote website is an excellent source of information about ending physical punishment of children and the law in New Zealand. It will be kept live as a reference source.

The website will continue to publish relevant news from New Zealand.

Thank you again to our supporters!

The Yes Vote Team


Physical punishment of children and the Child Discipline Law

November 16, 2009

Support for the 2007 law remains strong among those that understand how well children in New Zealand will be served in the long term by the repeal of the old section 59 Crimes Act 1961.  As the recent report from the Ministry of Social Development has shown there has been no increase in prosecutions for minor assaults on children since the law change but there seems an increased willingness to report more serious assaults on children.

It is also likely that the law is already contributing (along with information about positive parenting) to a social change away from use of smacking and hitting,    International evidence against the use of physical punishment continues to grow.   Calls from activities opposed to the 2007 law change do not reflect such evidence and the “March for Democracy” is their latest expensive move to apply pressure on politicians to turn back clock and send a message intentionally or unintentionally that physical punishment is a acceptable form of child discipline.

EPOCH NZ have produced a paper reviewing the law in light of recent research and the referendum.

The paper asks:

  • what is the evidence against use of physical punishment?
  • how is the 2007 law working?
  • who supports the 2007 law and who opposes it?
  • how will the safety and wellbeing of New Zealand children be best served now?

The answers to these questions form the basis for the following recommendations:

1.    Keep the law as it is: Children in New Zealand will be very well served over time if the Government stays strong in its resolve not to re-introduce a statutory defence into section 59 Crimes Act 1961.

2.    Provide information about the law and positive, non-violent discipline of children: There is an ongoing need for the dissemination of well-researched and supportive information about:

  • the law and its value
  • how the law is working in practice
  • positive non-physical discipline of children.

3.    Monitor the law and research its effects: The application of the child discipline law should continue to be monitored both to ensure that parents are not investigated and/or prosecuted when these actions are unhelpful and to track attitudinal and behavioural changes and the safety and wellbeing of children over time.

4.    Deal with any changes needed through policy and procedures: If inadequacies are found in the way the law is being applied then further protections should be developed without changing the law.  Such protections should support family functioning but at the same time not encourage the use of physical discipline by implying that it is okay.

Download the paper, Physical Punishment of Children and the Child Discipline Law.

Report: Child abuse and neglect cost NZ $2 billion

August 25, 2009

Every Child Counts has just released a report written by Infometrics entitled The nature of economic costs of child abuse and neglect in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Government has substantially increased its investment into the prevention of child abuse and neglect in recent years.  In the 2004 Budget departmental appropriations for education and preventative services for children amounted to just $16.1m, or 3% of the Child, Youth and Family appropriation in 2004/05.  In the 2008 Budget this commitment had risen to $166m. 

However, adapting international cost estimates to the New Zealand situation suggests that every year child abuse and neglect generates a long term bill that is equivalent to around $NZ2bn (or over 1% of GDP).

Based on US studies, just 32% of this cost is likely to be the direct consequences of child abuse and neglect (eg health care, child welfare service, and justice system costs).  A further 36% of costs relate to ongoing health, education, and criminal consequences for child abuse victims in later life.  The final 32% of costs result from a decline in productivity as victims fail to meet their potential (Wang and Holton 2007).

The growing focus on prevention is a welcome development that reflects the current understanding of child development and the biological underpinning of this development process:

  • The architecture of the brain and the process of skill formation are both influenced by an inextricable interaction between genetics and individual experience.
  • Both the mastery of skills that are essential for economic success and the development of their underlying neural pathways follow hierarchical rules in a bottom-up sequence such that later attainment build on foundations that are laid down earlier.
  • Cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional competencies are interdependent, all are shaped powerfully by the experiences of the developing child, and all contribute to success in the work place
  • Although adaptation continues throughout life, human abilities are formed in a predictable sequence of sensitive periods, during which the development of specific neural circuits and the behaviours they mediate are more plastic and, therefore, optimally receptive to environmental influences.

Brain development is continuous over many years.  For children at unusually high risk, neuroscience provides a compelling argument for beginning intervention programmes at birth, if not prenatally.  Developmental research shows that children master different skills at different ages, which suggests that opportunities for a variety of effective interventions are present throughout early childhood.

Looking forward the critical issues that still need to be resolved are:

  • Is the current level of government spending on preventing child abuse and neglect sufficient?
  • How can one ensure that the appropriate level of resourcing is attained and maintained?
  • What institutional arrangements will encourage the delivery of effective preventative services?

Answering the first question will require further New Zealand specific research, and this will also contribute to debate about the level of public commitment to the issue.  Grunewald and Rolnick (2006) suggest an elegant approach to ensuring public commitment is maintained and which can foster innovation in the delivery of services aimed at reducing the incidence to child maltreatment: the creation of a public endowment.  Grunewald and Rolnick consider the benefits of such an approach are that:

  • It encourages private, innovative, and targeted provision of early childhood services (small scale, high quality interventions have demonstrated greater social returns than broad-based publicly provided schemes).
  • It represents a permanent commitment and allows leverage of resources from public and private stakeholders.
  • A permanent commitment sends a market signal to service providers that they can expect a consistent demand for their product.
  • By drawing up a business plan that demonstrates it can win service provision contracts, a prospective provider can leverage funds for capital expansions as lenders will be assured by the stability of the early childhood development endowment.

This report covers the consequences of child abuse and neglect,  the case for preventative intervention, and policy issues related to the promotion of a preventative approach to child abuse and neglect.

Download The nature of economic costs of child abuse in New Zealand.

Northland iwi leaders stand together to say “Vote YES”

August 6, 2009

The Northern Advocate reports that leaders from the seven Northland (Te Tai Tokerau) iwi are urging the public to read past the controversial referendum’s wording and vote YES.

“We are voting ‘yes’ as good parents want their children to have the same protection as adults,” Ngati Whatua chief executive Allan Pivac said.

“Our  No1 responsibility is manaakitanga, the care of our people, and our children need to be protected from all forms of abuse,” Ngapuhi chief executive Teresa Tepania-Ashton said.

They are joined by leaders from Te Aupouri, Ngati Kahu, Whaingaroa, Te Rarawa, and Ngatiwai.

Read the full article.

Talking about voting ‘yes’

July 14, 2009

Listen to this latest Collaborative Voices programme


NZ Research: Only one in ten parents believe smacking is effective

June 15, 2009

More evidence is emerging that Kiwi parents are favouring positive parenting strategies for disciplining their children over smacking or hitting.

New Zealand is nearing the second anniversary of the law change that gave children the same legal protection against assault as adults.

New information on family discipline practices is being presented tomorrow (Tuesday June 16 2009) in Wellington at the Families Commission annual research seminar.  The early findings are from the second report on a study of 100 families carried out by Otago University researchers Julie Lawrence and Anne Smith.  The report, funded by the Commission, will be published in a few months.

Professor Smith said, “In our research four out of ten of the parents said that they occasionally smacked their children. However, less than one in ten felt it was effective.”

In contrast, timeout, which was the most commonly used disciplinary strategy was thought to be effective by four out of ten parents.

“Parents who had been brought up being whacked as children were often determined to do it differently and had moved away from smacking their own children.”

Professor Smith said the parents in the study were much less accepting or supportive of physical punishment than those in studies done ten and 20 years ago.  These latest findings agreed with a 2008 survey done funded by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

Chief Commissioner of the Families Commission, Dr Jan Pryor, says the repeal of Section 59 sent a clear signal that hitting children was not acceptable and this study shows attitudes appear to be changing.

“Consistent parenting strategies which use rewards, distraction and consequences such as timeout are proven to be more effective at teaching children self discipline than physical punishment.

“The law is working well, parents are not being criminalised for trivial offences and there is growing understanding and use of positive parenting strategies,” she said.

Bill Mitcham: Three models of parenting – dictator, wet clay, and authoritative teacher

June 10, 2009

There are three models the generations of the past have used to tackle the task of parenting.

The fist model, perhaps the traditional model, could be labeled “the dictator style“. This model promotes using parental power to “mould” children into shape, like a drill sergeant at a military training site. By the use of raw power or rewards, these “dictator parents” punish, threaten and many times use physical force on children. This may be slaps, punches or the use of belts and switches. Since parents are bigger than children, it is easy to overpower a child. Rewards are also used by dictator types. Since parents have access to money and goods, they attempt to bribe children into compliant behavior to get a reward for “good behavior.” This model can appear to work since the threat of being harmed, embarrassed or being yelled at forces children into fear and following orders.

Children raised by dictator parents tend to grow up as fearful, overly submissive, low-esteemed adults. The other response is to retaliate against parents as they get older and bigger, sometime becoming unmanageable when children strike back, using their power against their parents. These children feel unloved and rejected.

A second model could be called “the wet clay parents“. These are parents with no backbone — like wet clay, they can be molded and shaped by their children. These parents usually have little self- esteem themselves and desperately want their children to like and love them. They do everything they can to win their children’s favor. Permissiveness is the mode of operation and if the parents make a rule or express expectations for a child, the child gets angry, pitches a tantrum and the parents cave in and let the child do whatever the child wants to do. These children can become tyrants and dictators. As the kids get older and stronger, their parents may live in fear in their own home, like captives.

Children of wet clay parents often grow up selfish, uncooperative and demanding in all their relationships. They, too, feel unloved because there is no love in the parents who are victims. Parents feel no love but feel tons of resentment. When these children grow up, they can become violent to their spouses and children.

The third model, we will call “authoritative teacher style“. This is the parent who assumes parental power and uses her/his authority to set boundaries and expectations and models values that promote cooperation and shared power with children. Like a good teacher, the children know the parent is in charge, but is there to teach them, not to threaten or please them. Good teachers develop influential relationships with their students and set high standards and strict expectations. Authoritative parents do the same. When there is a problem, the authoritative parent sits down with the child and explores choices, allowing the child to express her or his thoughts and feelings, knowing that the parents have the final word. This model aims at mutual respect. Both the power of the parent and the child is utilized in the problem solving process.

Children of the authoritative teacher model grow up feeling loved, respected, have high self regard, and learn to be cooperative and respectful with others. This is a recipe for adult success.

Dr Bill Mitcham is the Director of The Marriage Maintenance Center in Davidson, North Carolina, USA.

Phil Goff: Labour is opposed to reversing the repeal of Section 59

June 9, 2009

We have received a letter from Phil Goff, which was released from his office for publication on our web site.  In it, he clearly states:

Labour is opposed to reversing the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act.  We believe that the law is working as intended and has not resulted in any criminal sanctions against good parents who do not harm their children.

We look forward to the other parties stating their position with such clarity.

Talking points for the upcoming referendum

June 7, 2009

Pretty soon, the referendum to overturn Section 59 of the Crimes Act will be a hot topic of conversation. We list here a summary of facts to help inform your discussions and help you understand the issues better – and to start those conversations.

Opening gambits

  • You are working on a campaign to encourage people to vote YES in the upcoming referendum about child discipline.
  • Some people want to see Sue Bradford’s 2007 amendment to Section 59 of the Crimes Act overturned.
  • That original decision was one made by Parliamentarians in a free vote.
  • Now every voter has a chance to be heard.
  • Referendum 2009 is unnecessary, expensive and, now, inevitable.

The Law as it stands

  • The law has been in force for two years.
  • The only way to send a clear message is a ‘YES’ vote.
  • The referendum will ask a very ambiguous – and subtly clever – question: Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?
  • To maintain the current law which protects children from physical punishment people must  vote ‘YES’.
  • A substantial ‘YES’ vote will send a message to parliament that voters approve of the new law is working.
  • Children deserve the same legal protection as adults against assault.

A smack from good parents

  • The referendum question may make voters feel ambivalent because it makes them accept that a smack can be a part of good parental correction.
  • That’s exactly what the organisers of this referendum want – to discourage opponents from voting.
  • Try the question another way: “Should speeding, as a part of good driving, be a criminal offence?”  Absurd, right?

What’s going on?

  • The group who initiated this referendum think hitting children is fine.
  • The YES vote campaign vehemently disagrees. It believes children need protecting and one way to do it is to protect the rights created for them by the changed legislation.
  • The referendum aims to reverse that law change and take those rights away.
  • YES vote campaigners believe the law is working well and can only help protect our children.
  • By voting YES we send an important message to parliament.
  • The new law has not criminalised parents unnecessarily.
  • Research tells us that smacking doesn’t work. It leaves children confused and parents feeling frustrated and angry.
  • Research also tells us that non-violent parenting is more successful.
  • Non-violent parenting is the more enlightened view. It’s a privilege to live in a country where children have this protection.
  • Overturning the current law would be retrograde and barbaric.
  • We are part of a global movement to ensure children are protected in law.
  • In our view, the government has to make laws to protect the most vulnerable citizens and that includes children. The law is consistent with community and government efforts to promote positive parenting.
  • It’s as simple as that.
  • Maori leaders say smacking is simply another expression of violence against our young ones – that includes the maiming and killing of our children – and it doesn’t teach your child what they did wrong. It teaches them that hitting other people is OK.

To support the law as it is now, we must encourage everyone we speak to, to vote “Yes” when their postal voting papers come – and that they mail them in.

It will be the quickest, positive action for children we can take this year.

Misleading claims about the Child Discipline Law and The Yes Vote campaign

May 26, 2009

As the referendum campaign heats up, supporters will have seen a number of claims being made about the Child Discipline Law and the Yes Vote coalition. We decided to put the record straight.

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

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