The Yes Vote – NZ Referendum on Child Discipline 2009

media kit

Download The Yes Vote media kit – Everything a journalist needs to know to produce informed, thoughtful and balanced stories about the real issues behind the referendum including contact details for spokespeople in an 18-page PDF.


1. Why is NZ spending $10m on a referendum on smacking?
Opponents of the law change started gathering signatures for a petition calling for a referendum long before the final shape of the child discipline law was confirmed and the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act was passed in 2007. Despite Police statistics showing the law is working well, the nation now faces a costly and unnecessary referendum on a divisive and confusing question.
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2. Why the law change was necessary – history of the child discipline law
The law had allowed some parents to get away with serious acts of violence against children and had set a standard for acceptability of physical punishment. There was a particular importance for New Zealand, with its very high rates of family violence and violent child deaths in families, in changing the law to remove any defence for assault on a child. It left New Zealand in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It created an anomaly where children were devoid of protection from assault despite adults and animals enjoying such protection.
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3. An overview of the law (including the review scheduled for 2009 / 2010)
The law makes provision for children to live in a safe and secure environment free from violence by abolishing the use of parental force for the purpose of correction. In late 2009 or early 2010 a review of the law will have been completed. The review will look at how the law is impacting on families.
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4. How the law is working- are parents being unnecessarily criminalised?
Successive Police reports show that Police are exercising the discretion granted to them in the law to avoid the prosecution of parents if this is not in the public interest. The law is not leading to mass criminalisation of good parents. The cases pursued by Police usually involve serious levels of violence of families where there are prior convictions for family violence. It is appropriate that some action is taken where assaults are heavy handed, although not necessarily prosecution. Any suggestion that children who are subjected to heavy handed assaults should not be protected is to suggest that their safety is not a paramount consideration.
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5. Public awareness and attitudes to the law
Research shows there is a significant level of support for the child discipline law, and support for the use of physical discipline appears to be declining over time. Awareness of the law is high but understanding of the law is not and family support organisations report strong uptake of positive parenting literature and courses in the last two years.
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6. What else needs to be done- child abuse and the law
Important steps to reduce child abuse include public education (about the law, about positive parenting and about child development), addressing the attitudes that support abuse, and addressing the social issues that put children at risk.
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7. Positive Discipline
Positive discipline, positive parenting, is the more effective way to guide children to behave well. It avoids the risk of child abuse associated with physical punishments and supports the best outcomes for children. It works well for both children and parents. Demand for positive parenting courses and information is at an all time high.
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8. Frequently Asked Questions.
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9. Some of the New Zealand organisations that support the law, and contact details for media spokespeople
Organisations delivering social services to children and their families support the law and many are available for interviews.
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Plunket Barnardos Save the Children Unicef Jigsaw Ririki Parents CentrePaediatric Society Womens Refuge Epoch

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