Posts Tagged family violence

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

Disciplining dad

July 3, 2009

Scott Kara’s (rough) guide to being a first-time dad on his New Zealand Herald blog

Most of the time, I’m a big softie. But this week, with Incredible Hulk-like tendencies, I turned into Super Domineering Dad by taking a stand and putting the little one into time out for the first time.

I thought I was looking out for her personal safety with my tough and loving stance. Crikey, she’d pulled herself up onto the cabinet in front of the TV, which is a fair-old fall to the wooden floor boards below, and was slapping the plasma screen with glee. It was the third time – in quick succession – she’d done it so what’s a dad to do?

While that might not sound like dastardly behaviour I couldn’t help but imagine that slab of electronic wizardry falling off the wall and squishing little honey lamb into a shrink-wrapped luncheon sausage.

It turns out, I think time out is a miserable failure and my wife and I don’t believe in it anymore. Not that it didn’t work, I just didn’t give it a chance. In fact, I was the miserable failure because my heart caved in to an uncontrollable longing to pick her up, hug her, and wipe those tears dry after shutting that door in her face.

So what do you do to stamp out wilful toddler tantrums and disobedience? Because, as Mr Ear Clip of Christchurch found out earlier this week, times have changed when it comes to discipline.

Gone are the days when mum cracked the wooden spoon on the bench as a threat – and boy, did my sister and I laugh when it broke on one occasion. Then there was the ultimate I-mean-business threat of dad – a far bigger softie than I am – pretending to take off his belt.

So instead of time out I’m resorting to either asking the little critter nicely to do something; praising her by way of coercion; ignoring her and hoping like hell she stops doing it eventually; or – and this is best of all – distracting her (which requires a ball, a puzzle, or, if I’m desperado, a TV show).

But hang on a minute, I thought I was meant to be a parent? I thought I was the one calling the shots?

Maybe I should harden up, stop being such a sook, and stick to my guns.

Then again, no matter what your approach, disciplining a toddler – and a teenager for that matter – is always going to be torture.

Loving smack? Hateful hug?

June 26, 2009

By Deborah Coddington

Why am I supporting the Yes Vote Team? For a number of reasons.

First, there’s the pragmatic reason.

Ten years ago I didn’t think much about Section 59 of the Crimes Act, but then I was assigned to write a feature for North & South magazine on the short life and cruel death of James Whakaruru. I interviewed the families of James and his killer and I realised, to my horror, that it wasn’t just a “light smack” used as everyday discipline, but jug cords, vacuum cleaner pipes, belts, closed fists, pieces of wood – anything close at hand when tempers were lost.

Members of the whanau argued with me, even as the earth on James’ grave was still fresh and the little windmills fluttered in the Hawke’s Bay breeze, this was acceptable if their children were naughty. Misbehaviour was defined as not eating their food, answering back or not answering back depending on the mood of the parent, making a mess – in fact any behaviour seemed to depend on what side of bed the parents got out of.

With some people you can educate and persuade as much as you like but you’re never going to make a difference. I believe you have to accept that laws must be changed if children’s lives are to made better. I accept that children will still die – sadly – and children will still be bashed, but there will be parents whose behaviour will be moderated because it is against the law to smack, belt, slap or whatever you like to call it.

You only have to look at smoking laws, or seatbelt laws, to see how they have changed people’s habits.

Secondly, the philosophical reason. I believe in the non-initiation of force, so why shouldn’t that apply to children as well as adults? Why should children have a lesser defence in court when they have suffered violence?

If I give my husband a shove, or a flick over the ear, or even a smack on the bottom, that is assault. There is no defence. If he lays a complaint and it goes to court, I cannot use “reasonable force” as defence because my husband might have come home late from the pub for the fifth time that week and needed some discipline.

So why should a child, who may have suffered similar initiation of force against their person, not be similarly protected? A child is a human being, with the same powers of reason as an adult – a mind, a heart, a brain. A child is not an “almost human being”.

Thirdly, getting rid of Nanny State. Eh?

Yes, you read that correctly, I want Nanny State out of our lives. Therefore the same law should apply to adults and children (though I am happy with the John Key amendment as it stands).

The pro-smackers who claim Nanny State is telling parents how to raise their children by banning smacking are actually doing more of the same by telling parents what kind of smack they can give their children. Act MP John Boscawen wants a new Bill which would allow a light smack. This is just another politician butting in with another law. Sue Bradford’s Bill actually got Nanny State out of people’s lives, but there was so much hysteria, nobody seemed to realise that.

I don’t expect miracles from Sue Bradford’s law change but hopefully, in the next few decades, we might see a shift in attitudes toward children in this country. It doesn’t help when issues are poisoned, and people like Christine Rankin are applauded for polarising the debate. It’s not simply a case of leftie versus rightie; Commie versus Christian. Jesus said suffer the little children to come to me, but Family First backs a father who allegedly repeatedly pushed over his little boy on the rugby field.

Loving smack? No such thing. How about hateful hug? And finally, consider this. Within marriage, rape was once legal between man and wife because marriage was taken as consent. Imagine we were campaigning to change the law, and those who opposed the amendment had written a referendum question which asked: “Should forced sex as part of a good marriage be a criminal act?”

Referendum offers king hit to humanity

June 21, 2009

Deborah Coddington (New Zealand Herald, June 21, 09) decries the “dastardly” referendum in her regular column saying it was organised  “by grown men who should know better”.

She says there is no such thing as a “loving smack, just as there is no such thing as a hateful hug” adding that it was no wonder children were “not valued as individuals in this country, but instead as some sort of chattel belonging to adults”

“We do not own our children,” she says, “a fact that has yet to be driven home to those selfish individuals who fight their way through the Family Court over who has the offspring, ensuring any remaining family happiness is destroyed forever.”

She goes on to argue that she doesn’t see a future in NZ for treasured children nor respect for their presence.

She admits she gave little thought to the issue until 10 years ago when she wrote about the death of James Whakaruru and realised how “normal it was for discipline to include beating children”

She concludes asking how we would react if the question was: “Should forced sex, as part of a good marriage, be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

Families Commission to run research seminar

May 19, 2009

The Families Commission will run an all-day research seminar series on 16 June at the Wellington Convention Centre.

The programme includes presentation of the results of recently completed projects and progress reports on studies underway. This is an opportunity for researchers, practitioners, policymakers and other interested groups to come together and discuss issues of significance for families.

Of particular interest to followers of  Child Discipline issues is the presentation on “Family Discipline in Context” at 4.00pm.  The abstract reads:

Family discipline in context – Julie Lawrence and Anne Smith
Family discipline is a controversial topic which has been debated for centuries, and which is known to have a lifelong effect on the well being of children. This report provides a snapshot of the views, experiences and practices of a sample of 100 New Zealand families, in relation to the discipline of their preschool children.

Parents/caregivers were asked about what they believed about discipline, how they disciplined their children, and the type of support and stress that they experienced with parenting. The study also looked at the effect of child and family characteristics and context over time, on discipline. The study used a multi-method approach, involving semi-structured parent interviews, parent diaries of disciplinary events over three days in a two week period, and a standardised tool, the Parenting Daily Hassles scale. One hundred and seventeen caregivers comprised the national sample – 99 mothers, 18 fathers, one grandfather and two grandmothers. The findings include the following headings: beliefs about discipline; disciplinary practices; the influence of child and family characteristics, stresses, context and support. The findings suggest a more favourable picture of New Zealand parents’ disciplinary practice than previous research has, showing that the majority of parents took an authoritative (firm but warm) approach, and suggests that professionals who work with families could benefit from professional development programmes focusing on effective approaches to discipline.

For more information, you can download the invitation (PDF), abstracts (PDF), and programme and registration form (Word doc).  Be sure to RSVP by 2 June.

Papaki Kore: No smacking for Māori

May 1, 2009

Dr Hone Kaa
Te Kahui Mana Ririki

Te Kahui Mana Ririki1 is now in its second year of operation. Our organisation is committed to eliminating Maori child abuse and maltreatment, and year one was spent focusing on establishing ourselves within the sector and securing funding for our ongoing work. We have positioned ourselves as a national Maori child advocacy organisation. Many Maori providers have asked us what this means in practice. Do we intend to speak on their behalf? Do we represent their interests?

What is becoming clear to me as we continue on our journey is that our primary role is to voice and promote the needs of Maori children and young people at a national level. This will be based on our observations of the sector, and Maori generally. And our comment will be guided by the values that underpin our strategic plan. Here are our values:

Self-determination

Primary responsibility for addressing these issues lies with Maori. Over the last twenty years Maori expertise in child maltreatment has increased exponentially. Maori practitioners are now blending generic child protection expertise with Maori models of practice. Any solutions that are developed must come from a Maori base.

We have the leadership and professional expertise in place to develop strategies to eliminate Maori child maltreatment and ensure the ongoing wellness of our ririki.

The centrality of tradition

Historical accounts indicate that Maori were kind and nurturing caregivers. This new profile of violence and abuse resonates with the experience of indigenous peoples elsewhere – it is the direct result of power-loss, poverty and cultural alienation. Answers lie in reclaiming traditions and re-constructing a violence-free culture.

Focus on Maori strengths

A combination of unbalanced media coverage, and continual exposure to negative statistics has perpetuated negative stereotypes of Maori. New strategies need to challenge these stereotypes, frame the Maori experience positively, and motivate behaviour change.

Network and collaborate

Maori services and workers are located in a whole range Maori and mainstream agencies. Any strategies that are developed need to tap into this expertise and plug any gaps that exist.

Whanaungatanga

The concept of whanau is at the core of Maori thinking. Work in Maori child health and maltreatment must strengthen and empower whanau to be violence-free. This work is not the domain of wahine only – tane and ririki must be factored into all strategies and solutions.

Educate and Communicate

These are the two main areas of activity required to achieve the changes necessary.

These principles are not new and emerged out of the Maori Child Abuse Summit Nga Mana Ririki held in Auckland in 2007. There is a subtle shift however. Despite the continuing profile of poor Maori health we no longer see ourselves as victims of something done to us. Rather we are asserting that we have the knowledge and expertise to deal with all of the most complex issues facing our people.

One of the key messages underpinning Nga Mana Ririki was:

We must stop blaming colonisation. It is time for us to take responsibility and heal.

As Maori we must see ourselves as liberated: as experts who can wrestle with any critical social issue.

Here is the profile of Maori women and family violence:

  • Maori women receive higher levels of medical treatment for abuse, and experience more severe abuse than other groups of women
  • Maori women between 15-24 years old are seven times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of an assault than Pakeha women
  • Maori women are over represented as victims of partner abuse, more likely to report psychological abuse, to have experienced physical or sexual abuse in the last 12 months, and to have experienced more serious and repeated acts of violence (Kruger et al, 2004)
  • Maori and Pacific men, and Maori women were all more likely to have experienced violent behaviours from people well known to them than men and women of other ethnic groups
  • Maori are more likely than Pakeha or Pacific peoples to experience all kinds of violence
  • Maori are significantly over-represented as both victims and perpetrators of violence in families/whanau
  • Maori were more likely to report community violence (15%) than Pakeha (10%) or Pacific peoples (9%) and more men than women experienced this kind of violence2

And here are some facts about Maori child maltreatment:

  • Maori children are four times more likely to be hospitalised as the result of deliberately inflicted physical harm
  • Maori are twice as likely to experience abuse as other groups
  • Rates are trending slightly downwards3
  • New Zealand has the third highest rate on infanticide in the OECD, with around a third being Maori deaths
  • For the period 1991-2000 child most at risk was under one year old, male and Maori4

Some Maori don’t like me talking about this context of adults hitting adults hitting children. I have been accused of blaming our people – of deficit thinking. I believe that type of comment is further evidence of the problem itself. Any social worker will tell you that healing starts when whanau begin to talk about the problem.  As Maori we must begin to discuss these issues and plan our way out of the mire.

Te Kahui Mana Ririki has focused quite specifically on the relationship between parents and caregivers and ririki. This is the point where we believe we can make a real difference. Smacking is simply another expression of violence against Maori children. If we can break the habit that our whanau have of hitting children, then more serious forms of abuse and maltreatment will also reduce.

Until now the positive parenting movement has been driven by Pakeha experts. I want to acknowledge the work of Beth Wood in particular who has advocated this issue for many years, and assisted us in the development of our work.

Using Choose to Hug which was developed by organisations like the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, Barnardos and UNICEF, our Strategy Manager Helen Harte has developed a six-step approach to non-violent parenting. The six steps are:

  1. Stop / Kauaka: Take a breather. Calm yourself down.
  2. Go / Haere: Make sure your child is safe. Then walk away.
  3. Ignore / E aro ke: Let annoying behaviour go if everyone is safe.
  4. Distract / Kia whakaware: Distract them with another activity, or remove them from that place.
  5. Praise / Whakamihia: Be positive. Reward good behaviour with smiles, hugs and lots of praise.
  6. Enjoy / Kia ngahau: Use play, singing, games and toys to change behaviour.

[Note: you can download The Six Steps poster for free]

For the aficionados of non-violent parenting these six steps are nothing new. There are some subtle shifts however.

Firstly, we have taken account of the context of Maori Family Violence that surrounds the hitting and smacking of our ririki. Our parents are often grappling with their own anger management issues and the first two of the six steps deal with this. We are saying to our parents that they must deal with themselves before they deal with their ririki.

Secondly, we have taken these concepts and attached Maori words. The words are not a translation; rather they are an interpretation of these concepts. We have applied the principles from our strategic plan which I referenced at the beginning of this paper.

And finally because physical abuse is a more significant issue for Maori than other groups, rather than framing this as ‘positive parenting’ we have taken a very directive approach – Papaki Kore, No Smacking. As Maori child maltreatment reduce this approach may be modified, but feedback from focus groups we have run with Maori caregivers is that they like the clarity of the message and the six steps.

We are actually asking our people to make a major mind shift about the beliefs of parenting – away from thinking that ririki are fundamentally naughty, to thinking about ririki as intrinsically pure and perfect. So now we have prefaced the six steps with the following beliefs about ririki:

  • Ririki are perfect
  • Ririki have mana
  • Ririki are tapu
  • Ririki need warmth
  • Ririki need structure
  • Ririki need guidance
  • Ririki grow into happy, caring adults

Once again we used existing material; in fact at least half of these principles have been distilled from Rhonda Pritchard’s book ‘Children are Unbeatable’.

Are any of these ideas new? Not really. We have gone back to our traditions as Maori, or we have simply updated existing expertise and Western knowledge.

I am certainly not intimidated by Pakeha knowledge. In fact I feel privileged because through my life in the Ministry of the Anglican Church I have been exposed to a vast body of thinking, much of it international. My philosophical base is Ngati Porou but my world view has been shaped by many other cultures and will continue to be so shaped.

In terms of Papaki Kore what is evolving is a blend of Maori and Western knowledge, which we hope will motivate Maori to transition to non-violent parenting.

Footnotes:

  1. Ririki is lifted from a famous Ngati Porou haka and means ‘young ones’. We use the term to describe Maori children and young people. Unlike the more commonly-used word tamariki, ririki is not gender specific.
  2. Pihama, L. Jenkins, K. & Middleton, A. Te Rito action area 13 literature review: family violence prevention for Maori research report, Ministry of Health, Wellington 2003.
  3. Ministry of Social Development, CYRAS, 2002-2003
  4. Doolan, M.P, Child death by homicide: an examination of incidence in New Zealand 1991-2000, Te Awatea Review 2(1) August 2004.

Speech to Māori MPs: Our tamariki should not be hit

April 28, 2009

Presentation to Māori MPs on Section 59
8 April 09
[edited]

Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati

Ko Tainui te waka
Ko Taupiri te maunga
Ko Waikato te iwi
Ko Ngati Mahunga te hapu
Ko Whati Tamati tupuna tane
Ko Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati ahau

I am employed by Save the Children as the New Zealand Programme Manager.

Introduction

My personal convictions for working in child advocacy and in advocating against physical punishment of children and promoting related law change is heavily influenced by my early life experience. When I was 18 months old and my brother was 3years old we were separated from our birth whanau and fostered into a Pakeha whanau. I remember the first encounters with my new parents at the transition home. I remember at that age of longing for adults who would care for, and nurture me and I bonded straight away to my `new mother’. My brother on the other-hand did not trust adults and especially women. I later learnt why. Both my brother and I lived with our new parents until my brother, who was six years old, was put into a residential home. This was supposed to a temporary stay however the residential caregivers fought to keep my brother and succeeded and eventually adopted him. When my brother was 16 they immigrated to Australia. My brother didn’t want to go. He hasn’t heard from them since.

My brother was put into temporary care because my mother at the time had just given birth to my brother through adoption and couldn’t cope with my birth brothers behaviour who used to kick her and scream and hide under the house and cower when my mother tried approaching him.

I later learnt that my brother, before we were fostered out, had been beaten severely including having broken bones, cigarette burns and scaring. I too had experienced this abuse however not too the same extent.

Research confirms that the first 3 years of a child’s life are the most important as at birth only 15% of the brain is developed. Most of the brain’s development occurs before a child is 3 years old and when a child’s emotional patterns and response pathways are established. The foundations for physical and mental health, language and learning, and socialisation are all established in those early years.

I was fortunate in that in half of those formative years I was raised in a nurturing environment. It is clear that my birth parents that both died before we had an opportunity to get to know them needed help. It was also clear my brother needed help and my foster mother did too in understanding how to relate to and support him. My brothers’ early life experiences have had a profound detrimental effect on him. My brother has tried to commit suicide and his children, whom he loves dearly, are in the care of his sister-in-law while he and his partner work through drug and alcohol issues and abuse within their relationship.

My brother and I met our birth whanau when I was 21. My older sister, whom I had just met, took me to see a woman who was extremely beaten. I tried to get her to get help and begged her and her sister to take action. 3 months later my other brother was convicted of murder for killing her. Years later a cousin of mine disclosed that he too was beaten badly by members of our whanau when I was trying to come to terms with why my brother would do such an act. She said “I just think of him as a little boy. I remember at the marae he was always getting a hit. He would run away and try and hide. They were horrible to him.” It is true that being abused as a child doesn’t mean that you will later abuse as an adult however being abused as a child is a risk factor for repeating that behaviour in later life.

One of my aunties shared with me recently the regret she feels when she recalls the times when she felt she fell short of her parenting role. Today my aunty who I am very fond of, has her moko, son and daughter-in-law living with her and she is proud that they raise her moko without violence and that she is teaching her moko Te Reo.

In my whanau I am proud to say that beating tamariki is no longer acceptable and I do have cousins that have been raised through nurturing and not violence.

Unfortunately for both my brothers and their partners and their children, they all bear the scars of being hurt by those who were meant to love, care and nurture them.

I know the abuse that my brothers experienced is at the high end of child abuse however research shows that physical punishment is a risk factor for child abuse. More importantly though is that both behaviours are predicated on a core belief that `It is ok to hit children.

Child abuse and severe physical punishment is more likely to occur less in a society and whanau where by `hitting children’ is not the norm and is not tolerated.

Having child advocates in the whanau who encourage alternatives to smacking is important in changing the norm of hitting children.

Naida Glavish, Chairperson, Te Rununga o Ngati Whatua, stated at the launch of the book ‘Unreasonable Force’:

“Our mokopuna carry the wairua of our ancestors and should for that reason alone not be hit. I for one will ensure that not one of my mokopuna will be hit”.

In 2007, thanks to a Bill introduced by Sue Bradford, and with the vast support of a overwhelmingly majority of MPs (113 out of 121), hitting children was outlawed. Now technically speaking it is illegal to use force for the purpose of correction. The law is clear in its intent to allow children to live free from violence.

The Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 repealed the statutory defence of reasonable force for correction that had for so long been regarded as permission for parents to hit their children.

There is provision in the Act for parents to hold, restrain or pick up children e.g. keep them safe from running onto the road and that such restraint needs to be reasonable. There is another provision in the law that allows Police to use their discretion not to prosecute adults who assault children if they think the assault is of a minor nature.

Police statistics show they are exercising that discretion. They are only prosecuting cases of serious violence, or where there are prior whanau violence convictions because everything points to children being at greater risk when there is a history of whanau violence.

The previous Government chose to accept the clear rationale for the need for the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act. That being:

  • hitting children is harmful – research shows there are many negative effects of children experiencing physical discipline
  • hitting children is not effective discipline
  • physical discipline is known as a risk factor for abuse
  • some parents were acquitted under the old Section 59 for serious acts of abuse against their children e.g. a women who whipped her child with a riding crop 3 or 4 times and beat him with a bamboo cane 4 or 5 times;
  • the existence of a statutory defence for corporal punishment is inconsistent with international law (UNCROC), and with public education aimed at positive non-violent parenting such as SKIP.

Before and even after the Repeal of Section 59 there has been a well funded campaign for parents right to hit their children for the purpose of correction.

Opponents of the law argue that:

  • parents have a right to discipline their children as they see fit.
  • use of physical force e.g. `hitting’ in a reasonable way is a valid and useful form of discipline
  • the new law will criminalise parents and that `good’ parents are being unfairly investigated.

Each one of their arguments can be strongly refuted. There is insurmountable evidence demonstrating that physical discipline is both harmful and ineffective.

Furthermore, the law is being monitored and is working well as intended. A review is planned for late in 2009 or early 2010.

Police half-yearly reports have consistently shown that complaints for minor assaults on children have not increased substantially since the law changed and there have been very few prosecutions for assaults of a minor nature.

Throughout the child discipline debate in 2007, we saw evidence of the themes that actively support abusive behaviours towards children and create barriers to the prevention of child abuse. These themes are:

  • a view of children as the property of parents;
  • parents having rights over children; and
  • a prevalence of attitudes that actively support the rights of parents and nominated others to hit or assault children as part of a regime of physical punishment.

Elizabeth Gershoff in a review and meta-analysis of the research literature on corporal punishment summarises the findings:

Ten of the 11 meta-analyses indicate parental corporal punishment is associated with the following undesirable behaviours and experiences:

  • decreased moral internalisation (not learning lessons well),
  • increased child aggression,
  • increased child delinquent and antisocial behaviour,
  • decreased quality of relationship between parents and child,
  • increased child mental health,
  • increased risk of being a victim of physical abuse,
  • increased adult aggression,
  • increased adult criminal and antisocial behaviour,
  • decreased adult mental health,
  • and increased risk of abusing own child or spouse.

Corporal punishment was associated with only one desirable behaviour:

  • increased immediate compliance.

Most parents and caregivers want their children to grow into well-adjusted, responsible adults. Hitting children does not support this long-term outcome. When we hit a child we lose an opportunity to teach them well.

Opponents of the new law did manage to convince 10 percent of the voting public to force the referendum associated with the law reform. The referendum will be held by postal ballot in July – August this year, will cost approximately $10 million and is non-binding.

The question that the voting public will be asked to vote on is:

Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

This question is intentionally ambiguous, confusing and designed to generate opposition to the law. The question implies that smacking is a good form of child discipline and that good parents who smack will be criminalised.

We know that this is untrue and that smacking is not a good form of parental correction and no parents have been convicted for inconsequential smacks.

There are more fundamental and vital questions that need to be asked, for example:

  • How do we promote connectedness, collective responsibility; the right for every child to thrive, be well, be loved, to be safe and to reach their potential?
  • What is needed for parents to be able to be great parents?
  • How do we value our elders, our aunts and our uncles, in their responsibilities to nurture the tamariki and rangatahi within their whanau?
  • How do we protect those who are most vulnerable?

As part of the Campaign for Action on Whanau Violence, a literature review has shown there are six things needed to reduce the chances of child maltreatment (physical and psychological):

  • Establishing a positive ideology of children
  • Addressing beliefs about the physical punishment of children
  • Reducing adult partner violence
  • Addressing alcohol and drug abuse
  • Creating support systems that parents are willing and able to engage with, and
  • Providing parent education and skills.

As Tariana Turia said in her speech for the Symposium on Violence Prevention on 3 April that

‘The answer is already with us – in our families; in our whanau.’ `Hope lies in the healing and educating of our families. It comes from a policy approach which values the whanau; and supports violence free homes. It is nurtured in the kaupapa of whanaungatanga – the enormous potential that the extended whanau provides to support one another.’

The law change is a critical component of the strategy to change attitudes about the use of physical punishment. Another component of change is information and education.

Information and support for Maori parents on positive discipline and interventions aimed and supporting whanau and hapu to be violence-free, strong and nurturing is especially important.

In recent months there has been an increase in notifications to CYFS. Many of these notifications are children who have witnessed whanau violence and are therefore traumatised and at risk.

We need to continue to support programmes that promote non-violent parenting that are proven to be effective such as Project Mauri Ora that and empowers and skills families to recognise violence; to find solutions drawing on their own iwi traditions and experiences and work collectively on transforming their whanau, SKIP, Family Start, and community led intervention programmes.

Perhaps a social marketing television campaign that’s educates parents about the harmful effects of smacking and alternative positive forms of parenting may also be what’s needed. Positive parenting is easy and effective when parents are used to parenting that way. We need to show parents how!

Children have an innate desire to be loved by and to please their parents and the vast majority of parents have an innate desire to provide what the very best for their children. Many parents in this country simply lack the wherewithal, whether than is financial or support by way of services.

We know that environments of deprivation increase the risk of child abuse and therefore we need to address the macro issues that are risk factors for child abuse and maltreatment for example, poverty and deprivation. Drug and alcohol abuse are important factors too.

While one-fifth of New Zealanders overall live in the most deprived areas of the country, where victimisation rates are higher, almost half of Māori do.

To change the social norms about the use of violence, including hitting within our whanau require a sustained, multifaceted all of community and Government approach. We need those in leadership positions to prioritise children and their whanau and the care-giving roles they play.

Thank you for giving us time to present to you and particularly that you are all very busy. I also humbly acknowledge and thank you for the enormous commitment and dedication each one of you has and continues to contribute to advancing the interests and wellbeing of our tamariki and our people. I conclude the presentation with a message from Naida Glavish, the Chairperson of Te Rununga o Ngati Whatua:

Our tamariki mokupuna carry the divine imprint of our tupuna (ancestors), drawing from the sacred wellspring of life. As iwi we share responsibility for the well being of our whanau and tamariki mokopuna. Hitting and physical force within whanau is a violation of the mana (prestige, power) and tapu (sacredness) of those that hit and those that are hit.

Naida Glavish JP, Chairperson Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua.

We ask that you will continue to strongly proclaim that our tamariki should not be hit and raised without violence and we ask that you counter any misinformation about the law.

Tena tatou katoa

New online book about family violence: Real People, Real Stories

April 28, 2009

The Campaign for Action on Family Violence has just published an online book, Real People Real Stories, telling eight true stories in the first person by people who have experienced family violence.

As described by the site,

These stories are intended to help others who have suffered from family violence and to help New Zealanders understand the impact of family violence on individuals, their families and their communities.

We know that children are damaged by violence in the home – whether they see it, hear it or just know about it. It has been proven that the brain development of preschoolers is profoundly inhibited by exposure to violence in the home.

In New Zealand each year 14 women, 10 children and six men die as a result of family violence. Many thousands more are scarred physically and emotionally.

Family violence thrives in secrecy – so the more we talk about it and understand it, the more likely we are to prevent it.

And these stories give hope that lives can be healed and that the cycle of violence can be broken.

They are heartbreaking stories describing in sometimes graphic detail how it feels to be trapped in families where violence is the norm, and the lasting effects on the young people involved.

If you need any help in understanding why it should continue to be illegal to hit your kids, read this book.

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

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