Posts Tagged christchurch

The Press: Referendum vote a fiasco

August 25, 2009

The Christchurch Press‘s editorial yesterday discusses the referendum:

The question posed was flawed, the participation of voters low, the campaign unengaging, the cost of the exercise prohibitive and the results inconsequential. In short, the referendum was a fiasco…

Legal proceedings are costly and intrusive for a family; the cause of non-violent rearing is not advanced by a stream of parents being hauled into court.

The police realise this, and their administration of the legislation has been exemplary. They have initiated legal proceedings only for gross violations of the law and talked through other instances.

It is the fact that the law frowns on smacking that will encourage parents to rethink and change their behaviour towards their children such is the influence of formal sanctions in altering humans’ attitudes…

It is reform of the referendum legislation, rather than reform of the smacking law, that this latest referendum is likely to produce.

Read the full article.

Jan Pryor: Community agencies value the Families Commission

June 2, 2009

The appointment of Christine Rankin to the Board of the Families Commission has put the spotlight on the work of The Families Commission, particularly our support for the new child discipline law.

The renewed debate on physical punishment shows how poorly the intent and purpose of the new law has been communicated to the public. I was surprised last week to hear a prominent lawyer (among others) say that the new child discipline law had not stopped child abuse. Simply making it illegal to break and enter a home doesn’t stop burglaries and no one expects it to. So it’s puzzling that there is an expectation that one law, on its own, will stop child abuse.

The repeal of Section 59 is part of a whole-of-society effort that is underway to reduce and prevent family violence. A lot of this is focused on building understanding about family violence and changing attitudes so people are less tolerant and more likely to seek help, or report incidents of violence. Some of this is being done through the It’s Not OK campaign, which was developed with the Families Commission leadership, funding and research in partnership with community organisations and other government agencies. The White Ribbon Day campaign is another of the Commission’s projects which is helping to change attitudes toward violence in families.

In an act of courage and leadership Parliament made sure our assault law was consistent with this work and gave children the same protection that was given to their parents. Now, when a parent is charged with assault, there is no longer a legal defence that the parent was using ‘reasonable force’ to discipline the child.

It’s a law that is working well in combination with the other work that is being done. Last week, a Christchurch father who punched his four year old son in the face and flicked his ear was found guilty of assault. The father’s lawyer told the court he was using reasonable force to discipline his son, but this is no longer a defence. The man’s yelling and abusive behaviour had caught the attention of passers by who were concerned enough to report the incident. Their willingness to step forward on behalf of the child is part of a new trend resulting from the It’s Not OK campaign. Research shows that one in five people who have seen the television advertisements have taken some sort of action because they were concerned about their behaviour or the behaviour of someone else. Our belief is that as intolerance grows, more and more people will speak up when they see or hear violent and abusive behaviour within families. It is this sort of action that will make it less likely that another Nia Glassie will die.

Last week, a Christchurch Press columnist criticised the research done by the Commission. He used our recent report on the difficulties shift-working parents have in managing childcare to illustrate his point of view. He felt that the information from these families was simply a statement of what the public already knew. Far from it. This was a small study done within the context of a much bigger project that looks at just what it is that families need in the way of child care services. By drilling down and doing intensive interviews with a range of families we are able to determine patterns of need, whether people’s arrangements work and what would they prefer in the way of support. The resulting information, along with our analysis, is now being made available to government and service providers and should, in time, result in services and support being much more targeted. This in turn should lead to more efficient use and delivery of resources. That’s the thing about research. It provides facts on which to base decisions and services, rather than opinion and anecdotes.

One of the other common statements made about the Commission is that its work could be done by some other government agency. That may be partly true of some of our research so we are careful to make sure we don’t duplicate the work of others. But the Comission is unique in that it was specifically set up to advocate for families and to provide independent and impartial advice to government and to other organisations. We are also tasked with taking the resilience and strengths of families into account in our work rather than focusing on their deficits.

We acknowledge that The Christchurch Press’s columnist is probably not alone in knowing little about the Commission. Our work is often done behind the scenes, in partnership with many other agencies, community organisations and government departments. However I believe a street poll would reveal that the public knows just as little about the work of Internal Affairs or the Ministry of Social Development as it does about the Commission.

But ask any large community agency that works with families who we are and what we do and I am confident you will find they support and value the contribution we are making through our research, information, advice and support.

Jan Pryor is the Chief Commissioner at The Families Commission

The Christchurch Case – from a parenting perspective

May 21, 2009

On 19 May 2009 a Christchurch father was found guilty of assaulting his son by flicking his ear and punching him in the face. While there has been a lot said about whether the father would have been prosecuted and found guilty under the old law, or should have been prosecuted at all, there has been no examination of case from a parenting perspective.

Dr Joan Durrant, in her book, Positive Discipline: What it is and how to do it, tells us that positive discipline is a way of thinking that focuses on identifying long term goals for children, providing warmth and structure, understanding how children think and feel and teaching problem solving. Key long term goals include encouraging the development of self-discipline and learning to take responsibility. A parent’s role includes guiding the child’s behaviour and modelling appropriate behaviour.

Were the Christchurch children shown by the father what he expected of them at the park and were safety issues explained and demonstrated to them? We don’t know. When the children behaved in a risky fashion and were “corrected” did they understand why their father was so angry? What did they learn from the experience? Perhaps just that when you are really angry its ok to hurt someone. Were they better informed about how to keep themselves safe in the future? Did they feel secure in their relationship with their father? These are relevant questions to ask ourselves when we think about how to respond to our children’s behaviour.

The Yes Vote Coalition welcomes verdict in child “face-punch” case

May 20, 2009

The guilty verdict in the Christchurch case of a father who punched his child in the face is clearly the right outcome.

“This incident was trivialised as a case of ‘ear flicking’ to discredit the 2007 changes to Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961, which provided parents a defence for physical punishment,” says Deborah Morris-Travers, spokesperson for The Yes Vote coalition of child and family focussed organisations who support the Child Discipline Law (Section 59) reforms and are encouraging the public to show support for the law in the forthcoming referendum.

“Now that all the evidence has been heard in a court, this case can be seen for what it is – a serious assault on a child and not the “poster-boy” cause for opponents of the law that was widely portrayed. Arguably, this case never had anything to do with Section 59, given it involved a simple assault.

“However, the Christchurch case demonstrates why it remains so important that New Zealand law clearly opposes violent parenting practices as not only unnecessary and ultimately ineffective, but also damaging for children and family relationships.”

Ian Hassall: The child-beating lobby are trivialising the real issues

May 20, 2009

The guilty verdict in the Christchurch child assault case was always likely. Why would the bystanders have called the police and why would the police have taken a prosecution unless there had been a serious assault? The ear flicking label was given by the father and taken up by the media and the child-beating lobby. It was always an unlikely story.

The trouble is that this has supported the father in his self-justification instead of helping him to find a way of dealing with the violence in his relationship with his children.

Sections of the media seem determined to trivialise this issue. They have run with the ‘anti-smacking bill’ headline for four years. Why did they take at face value the father’s ear-flicking story when witnesses were saying it was a punch in the face? There is a difference.

I’m glad the judge has signalled that he intends to impose a supportive sentence – perhaps an anger management course. I don’t want to join the punishers. A man who has the kind of relationship with his children where he erupts in anger and loses control, in broad daylight, in a busy city precinct needs some help.

This case is not primarily about Section 59. A punch in the face wouldn’t have been seen as ‘reasonable force’ under the old law. Even the child-beating lobby admit it’s going too far.

The case does underline the point though, that the high-sounding phrase, ‘reasonable force by way of correction’ is often just an excuse for lashing out after having lost your temper. The problem is not so much losing your temper – most of us have done that with our children – as believing this entitles you to strike them. In 2007, the new Child Discipline Law removed this excuse.

A Yes Vote supports this law, and sends a clear message to parents that there are better ways of disciplining children.

Ian Hassall is a paediatrician and children’s advocate. He was New Zealand’s first Commissioner for Children and before that Medical Director for the Plunket Society. He is Senior Research Fellow for the Institute of Public Policy at AUT, and part of the Every Child Counts campaign to place children’s interests at the centre of government. He teaches the undergraduate paper, Children and Public Policy.

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

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