John Campbell ran a heated but civil discussion on the referendum tonight, with Anton Blank (Te Kahui Mana Ririki) and Murray Edridge (Barnardos) representing The Yes Vote pitted against Sheryll Saville and Bob McCoskrie speaking for the Vote No lobby.
Barnardos New Zealand wishes to clarify the situation that Family First is so diligently trying to confuse. There is only one person in this nation that can stop the upcoming citizens initiated referendum. That person is Sheryl Savill – the instigator of the petition that has required the referendum to be held,” says Murray Edridge, Chief Executive of Barnardos New Zealand.
Ms Savill has only until Friday, 3 July 2009 – after which the Governor-General will issue the writ for the referendum.
“Today, Family First claimed that others had it within their power to call a halt to this unnecessary and fruitless exercise by complying with their demand for a law change. In turn, Family First would reward the nation by withdrawing the referendum which would save some of the $9m they have needlessly imposed on the country.
For more information contact: Murray Edridge Chief Executive, Barnardos Phone (04) 385 7560 or 0274 851 896
“It’s bad that they are smacking them. It’s good that they are disciplining them but they shouldn’t be hitting them really hard. Maybe they could send them to the corner”
11-year old girl who participated in the What’s Up survey.
The debate around the Referendum ’09 on physical punishment has been widely debated by adults but who is listening to the voice of those who are at the centre of this debate – the children?
As New Zealand’s largest telephone helpline for children and young people, 0800WHATSUP provided an opportunity for children and young people to express their views about physical punishment and whether or not adults should be able to claim a legal defence if charged with assaulting a child.
“The initial results from the survey show that the majority of callers (more than 55 percent) do not think parents taken to court for hitting a child should be let off if they say they were disciplining the child”, says Murray Edridge, Chief Executive of Barnardos New Zealand.
“Despite this, comments from the children and young people who participated in the survey suggest many children are conditioned to expect and accept physical discipline from parents. Importantly, many of the callers suggested that parents should be let off with a warning or community service if they perpetrated low levels of violence against children”.
“This is how the child discipline law is working in practice. Parents are not being prosecuted for lightly or occasionally smacking a child, only serious levels of violence are being prosecuted”.
“Barnardos welcomes the sample of results in the survey that provide valuable insights into the views of children and young people about physical punishment. We are pleased that What’s Up has done this survey, giving children and young people the opportunity to express their point of view about a subject matter that affects them most in Referendum ’09”, concluded Mr Edridge.
The telephone survey was conducted from 27 April to 10 May and was successful in eliciting a large proportion of meaningful votes and comments, with a response rate of around 10%. What’s Up continues to invite children and young people to express their point of view on the matter of “smacking” until the referendum closes on 21 August.
Uschi Klein, Communications Advisor
DDI (04) 382 6717
Mobile 027 228 3088
PO Box 6434, Wellington
In today’s Herald, Brian Rudman points out that the $8.9M being spent on the referendum is equivalent to half the money that the government spends on adult education, or a quarter of what Barnardos spends each year on helping children in need.
For all their fear-mongering, the pro-smackers have been unable to produce any evidence to back their claims that good parents will be marched off to slappers prison. The best they could come up with as a poster boy for their cause was Christchurch musician and father-of-six, Jimmy Mason. A month ago he was convicted of assaulting his 4-year-old son.
He was dubbed the “ear-flick dad” but witnesses and even he told a different story.
A witness saw him yelling at the boy in downtown Christchurch, saw him yank his ear and hit him in the face with a closed fist. Mr Mason’s version was he gave the boy “a bloody good flick” because he was “being a prat”.
A policewoman testified he repeatedly shouting “f … ing listen” to the child and told her “I hit the big one in the face and that is what I do …”
Later, on what passes as television current affairs these days, Mr Mason was given the chance to recreate his attempts to teach his youngsters safe bike riding practices.
He thought better of repeating the physical violence, or the angry swearing. But if he’s the best the smackers can do by way of a martyr figure, they should apologise for wasting our time – and money.
The cost of child maltreatment is staggering, yet our willingness to live with the consequences suggests that we remain in a state of denial. The consequences of child maltreatment include:
Human costs to victims: child fatalities, child abuse related suicide, medical costs, lower educational achievement, pain and suffering.
Long term human and social costs: medical costs, chronic health problems, lost productivity, juvenile delinquency, adult criminality, homelessness, substance abuse, and intergenerational transmission of abuse.
Costs of public intervention: child protection services, out-of-home care, child abuse prevention programmes, assessment and treatment of abused children, law enforcement, judicial system, incarceration of abuse offenders, treatment of perpetrators, and victim support.
Costs of community contributions by volunteers and non-government organisations.
Translating overseas estimates of the costs of child abuse and neglect to the New Zealand context suggests that it imposes long term costs in the vicinity of $2 bn per year, ie in excess of 1% of GDP every year. Roughly one third of this cost relates to dealing with immediate consequences (eg health care, child welfare service, and justice system costs). Another third relates to ongoing health, education, and criminal consequences for child abuse victims in later life. The final third results from a decline in productivity as victims fail to meet their potential.
Reducing the incidence of child maltreatment would not only have a profound impact on the quality of life for potential victims but, by reducing our need to support victims, it will also materially improve the wellbeing of the rest of society.
Prevention is more effective than correction. The main reason for this is that maltreatment has lifelong impacts on the victims. The trauma of maltreatment can inhibit brain development in ways that mars intellectual, communication, social, and emotional abilities. Victims of child abuse face a greater risk of failing at school and of being emotionally alienated from society. That so many victims of maltreatment go on to lead essentially normal productive lives is a testament to the general resilience of human nature. But these victims have done it tough. Life could have been so much better and productive if their formative years had been less stressful. And then there are the walking disaster areas who go on to impose huge costs on themselves and the rest of society.
Abusive behaviour is not constrained by socio-economic status, but research has identified a number of risk factors that increase the potential for child abuse. Key markers of child maltreatment include:
Parental age and education, eg young or uneducated parents might not be naturally as well equipped to deal with the stresses of parenthood.
Parental mental health problems such as depression.
Social deprivation, in particular a lack of wider family support.
Alcohol or other drug dependency issues.
Past exposure of parents to interpersonal violence or abuse.
Poverty might exacerbate these pressures, but it is not clear that it is a root cause.
In New Zealand, agencies such as Barnardos, Plunket, Preventing Violence in the Home and many others play a critical role in supporting families to do their best for children.
Also the government’s commitment to preventing child maltreatment has increased considerably in recent years. Child, Youth and Family’s appropriation for education and preventative services for children increased from $16m in the 2004 Budget to $166m in the 2008 Budget. This increased spending has the potential to reduce the incidence and therefore the future cost of child maltreatment. But is it sufficient? Will services provided be effective? And what guarantee have we that the current commitment will be maintained?
A common problem with government sponsored programmes is their top-down, planned design. Large-scale programmes may miss the factors that made small-scale programmes a success or have difficulty obtaining success in different environments. Large programmes also have a propensity for diverting resources away from children and their families into running the bureaucracy and creating an overarching infrastructure.
Large-scale programmes can succeed if they have the following three features:
The programmes focus on at-risk children and encourage direct parent involvement.
There is a long term commitment to reducing the incidence of child maltreatment, including changing attitudes about physical punishment.
The programmes reward successful outcomes in order to encourage high quality and innovative practices.
A way of maintaining commitment would be to create a public endowment that would fund the provision of child and parent support services. A fund would clearly signal an ongoing commitment to reducing the incidence of child maltreatment, a focus on service rather than bureaucracy, a reassurance to service providers that there will be consistent demand for their services, and a willingness to fund effective, specialised and innovative services.
Druis Barrett resigned from The Families Commission today in protest at Christine Rankin’s appointment.
In an excellent interview on today’s Morning Report (listen below), she says “I wouldn’t go as far as to say that [Christine Rankin] was racist, but she’s damn well close to it”. In the same interview, Hone Kaa agrees with her, saying that Rankin’s comments were unhelpful.
The Herald reports that Rankin’s comment that so upset Barrett was “Maori whanau don’t look after their own, and that [they] should be responsible for the many children that are at risk and have been killed”, implying that Māori were doing nothing about the problem.
In fact, groups like Te Kahui Mana Ririki, Save The Children, Barnardos and Plunket have been running Māori led programs to attack these problems for years.
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
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
Yesvote.org.nz 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 yesvote.org.nz. If you’d like to submit an item for publication, please contact us.
We’d also appreciate it if you linked to yesvote.org.nz 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:
Two Hamilton-based child advocacy groups are adding their weight to a coalition of child welfare agencies preparing for a war of words with supporters of a referendum to change the controversial “anti-smacking” law.
The debate over the 2007 law, which removed the defence of “reasonable force” in the physical punishment of children, has reignited ahead of the August referendum.
Child Protection Studies chief executive Anthea Simcock and Parentline chairwoman Margaret Evans say both Hamilton organisations support Barnardos, Save the Children, Plunket, Childspace and other groups in countering what they say is misinformation about the repeal of Section 59.
“There is always going to be debate but at the end of the day if we can keep some children safe by changing adults’ attitudes towards violence then that’s worth doing,” Mrs Simcock said.
The coalition is shaping up against lobby group Family First and others championing the referendum on whether smacking should be a criminal offence.
Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said polls consistently showed the public was against the smacking ban, and the Government could drop the referendum estimated to cost up to $8 million.
“National and Act could change the law right here and now and that’s what they should do, because that’s what the country’s demanding.”
Family First did not want a return to the law as it was previously, but rather one that allowed light smacking. But Mrs Simcock said this would be a return to the previous law which in one high-profile case allowed a father to get away with hitting his child with a piece of wood.
“What is ‘light smacking’? It’s a bit like a little bit of speeding.”
She said the new law would take a while to “bed in” but she believed it had already begun to change attitudes. “It’s making parents think twice before they just lash out.”
If you are going to use or distribute material from our campaign in any way, eg remixed or mashed up, please ensure that your actions are compliant with the relevant legislation, as the Yes Vote Coalition cannot take responsibility for actions beyond our control or knowledge.
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.