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					         EPOCH New Zealand
End Physical Punishment of Children              Occasional Newsletter No 30            June 2007

A New Law for New Zealand!!!                           In the final 18 months of the campaign,
                                                       EPOCH New Zealand has been part of a
EPOCH New Zealand and many other                       network of agencies meeting regularly in
people are celebrating the passing into law of         Wellington to co-ordinate action on
the Crimes (Substituted Section 59)                    section 59. Other organisations attending
Amendment Bill on 16 May 2007. The new                 meetings and contributing to the campaign
law contains a specific ban on the use of              included Barnardos New Zealand, Every
force for correction. New Zealand is the first         Child Counts, the Royal New Zealand
English-speaking country to ban corporal               Plunket Society, Jigsaw, the Families
punishment. There is already considerable              Commission, the Office of the Children’s
international interest in what has happened            Commissioner, Every Child Counts, Save the
here. We expect New Zealand’s new law will             Children, UNICEF, Women’s Refuge and the
inspire other countries to make positive legal         Family Planning Association of New
changes against physical punishment.                   Zealand. EPOCH New Zealand extends a
                                                       special thank you to staff at Barnardos New
The 2 May agreement between the Prime                  Zealand who provided many hours of
Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to           strategic advice, administrative support and
support the amended Bill was an                        leadership. Special thanks also to UNICEF
extraordinary finale to hard work by many              New Zealand which supported Beth Wood’s
people. The National and Labour Parties                work for repeal of section 59 while she was
agreed about the final wording, which                  Advocacy Manager there.
essentially    endorses     existing    Police
prosecution guidelines.     Before then the            Peter Newell of The Global Initiative to End
Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment              Corporal Punishment (and formerly of
Bill already looked certain to pass, but after         EPOCH Worldwide) has been an inspiring
the agreement, the Bill passed its third               source of information and support. Peter
reading with a huge majority.                          visited New Zealand in 1999, promoting an
                                                       end to corporal punishment. Joan Durrant
We thank the many people who supported                 in Canada has been an utterly reliable
the movement to have section 59 of the                 source of information and twice travelled to
Crimes Act repealed. EPOCH New Zealand                 New Zealand to share her information and
is grateful to all our supporters and others           enthusiasm. We thank the United Nations
who have contributed to the law change by              Committee on the Rights of the Child for
contacting Members of Parliament and                   their excellent advice and guidance to New
promoting repeal in their community.                   Zealand.
Towards the end of the campaign, there was
an impressively large number of emails to              EPOCH New Zealand came into being in
Members of Parliament in support of the                1997 as the UN Committee on the Rights of
change. Special thanks go to many Members              the Child made its first report on New
of Parliament who bravely spoke up in                  Zealand’s   compliance    with    the    UN
support of the Bill, sometimes in the face of          Convention on the Rights of the Child. The
opposition from others in their Party.                 Committee      recommended     that     New
                                                       Zealand’s law be changed to effectively ban
We especially acknowledge the work of the              corporal punishment. One of EPOCH New
Bill’s original sponsor, Sue Bradford. Her             Zealand’s goals was the repeal of section 59
work for the Bill was a monumental effort.             of the Crimes Act.
Our most sincere thanks, Sue.

Where to now for EPOCH New                             •   protection for parents who restrain their
                                                           children for purposes of care or safety
                                                       •   a provision for reviewing the new law in
EPOCH New Zealand is a small charitable                    two years time, primarily to ensure that
trust with limited resources and (until                    parents are not being ‘criminalised’
recently) no paid help. We have achieved                   indiscriminately for minor infringements
one of our goals, but there is still a long way            of the law
to go in changing attitudes about physical
discipline. The new law will help. Other               •   an instruction to the police to use
agencies will be promoting alternatives to                 discretion about prosecution when cases
physical discipline and supporting parents                 of minor assaults on children come to
with the law change.                                       their notice.

EPOCH New Zealand has decided to take a
break. We will undertake a monitoring and              Where to for New Zealand after
information-sharing role. Our networking               the Crimes (substituted
function will end, and this will be our last
newsletter. We will upgrade our website
                                                       section 59) Amendment Act
( to make it a repository           becomes law on 21 June 2007?
of useful documentation on reform in New
Zealand. We will keep a ‘contact us’ function          The law change is very significant in itself
on the website. The booklet ‘Choose to hug;            and will play a part over time in reducing
not to smack’ can still be purchased from              the use of physical punishment in New
EPOCH New Zealand.                                     Zealand. But to maximise the benefit of the
                                                       reform, New Zealanders need information
                                                       about the new law, and the changes will
The new law                                            need close monitoring.

The following website provides information             Public information about the new law
about the Bill’s progress through Parliament
including all the amendments and links to              New Zealanders may be confused about what
Hansard for records of the debates:                    the new law means and opponents of the                           change may try to further frighten parents.
NZ/PB/Legislation/Bills/b/2/4/b24fba96f2224            The Bill’s intentions are clear, but no-one
b1985bc254efac71c63.htm                                knows for sure how the law will be
                                                       interpreted in the courts. Public knowledge
The new law provides:                                  of the law and its implications will be critical
•   full repeal of the old section 59 defence of       in changing attitudes and behaviour over
    reasonable force for the purpose of                time, and in reducing parental anxiety.
                                                       Extended information for parents
•   the removal of any common law rule
                                                       about alternatives to corporal
•   an equal status for children and adults            punishment
    under the law
                                                       New Zealand needs stronger and clearer
•   prohibition on parents administering               messages about what’s wrong with corporal
    physical punishment for schools                    punishment. We need expanded community-
•   congruence with other legislation and              based opportunities for parents to learn
    policy                                             about and use positive alternatives to
                                                       physical discipline.
•   compliance with international           and
    domestic human rights obligations


Monitoring the impact of the new law                   goal. It is likely that in the short term there
on reporting and prosecutions                          will be an increase in reporting of child
                                                       abuse as the population becomes more
The possible risk of the new law leading to            sensitised about violence to children.
increased prosecution for minor assaults on
children    has    been     publicised    and          There are already encouraging indications
exaggerated.      The Act provides for                 that some of these actions will happen.
monitoring the impact of the new law in
regard to ‘criminalisation’ of ‘good’ parents.
Such monitoring should include the number              Christian support for the Bill
and nature of complaints to Police and CYF,
Police and CYF response to complaints and              In the hectic last days before 2 May, public
the nature of any prosecutions that do occur.          support for change became more vocal and
                                                       was enriched by many individuals and
                                                       groups within Christian communities in New
Monitoring interpretation of the new                   Zealand expressing support for the Bill.
law                                                    Over 160 Christian leaders put their names
                                                       to repeal of section 59.         A statement
The intention in clause 1 of the new Act               expressing support for the Bill read:
(‘Parental control’) is to provide protection to
parents where restraint is used in specific               The Christian Leaders listed ... support
circumstances.         Some lawyers have                  the Crimes (Substituted Section 59)
expressed the view that this clause might be              Amendment Bill. Their view is that
misused to defend hitting children as part of             physical discipline is not supported by
control (not correction). Children should                 contemporary religious scholarship and
never be hit; hitting should not be part of               teaching and they wish to see any
control. The use of this clause must be                   justification for physical force as a means
monitored.                                                of discipline removed from New Zealand
                                                          law. They believe that this is a valuable
                                                          way forward in assisting New Zealand’s
Tracking the impact of the new law
                                                          transition towards being a less violent
Many countries with specific bans on the use              society.
of    force   for   correction    have   not
                                                       This was handed to the Prime Minister and
systematically measured the impact of law
                                                       MP Sue Bradford following an ecumenical
change on attitudes and behaviour. When
                                                       prayer vigil held at Wellington’s St Paul’s
the only information that exists is anecdotal
                                                       cathedral near Parliament, attended by
it is open to misinterpretation by opponents
                                                       several hundred supporters including a
of change.
                                                       strong contingent of MPs. This moving
Sweden has systematic monitoring which                 service followed public statements of support
provides evidence of a highly significant and          for repeal issued by the Anglican Bishops of
steady reduction in the number of parents              New Zealand. Maori Anglican Bishops also
who approve of physical punishment and a               issued a separate statement in support.
huge reduction in the number of children
who report ever being exposed to physical
discipline. In New Zealand baseline surveys            Opposition to change
asking the right questions should be done
                                                       Formidable energy and resources were
within a year and repeated regularly. The
                                                       marshalled by opponents of change. They
impact of the new law on attitudes and
                                                       made particular use of media appearances
behaviour is of much more than academic
                                                       and costly advertisements in newspapers.
interest: we need to know if the law is
                                                       Their petition against the law change
working for children and if not, why. The
                                                       continues to circulate.
focus of surveys should not initially be on
reduction in child abuse: that is a long term


In the closing stages of the public and                In New Zealand most people who believe
political debate on section 59 limited media           that parents are entitled to hit children base
publicity was given to the visit to New                their belief not on the Bible but on custom.
Zealand of Dr Robert Larzelere. Family
First New Zealand with the support of For              If the law had not changed or an amendment
the Sake of Our Children Trust and the                 had been passed that supported hitting,
Sensible Sentencing Trust brought Larzelere            many New Zealanders would have felt
to New Zealand at the end of April 2007 to             vindicated in their attitude towards children,
promote the benefits of mild physical                  and seen no reason to change. The new law,
discipline as a child rearing tool.                    plus     an    accompanying         information
                                                       programme, will in time lead to a change of
Larzelere distinguishes between what he                mind among many parents who currently
calls ‘normative’ or ‘ordinary’ smacking and           believe they are entitled to hit children.
harsh physical discipline. He claims that
normative smacking is harmless and even
beneficial. He advocates the use of minor              Around the world
forms of physical discipline, like smacking
with an open hand, and advises against                 The Netherlands and Greece have now made
using physical discipline on children under            use of physical punishment in the home
two years of age or over six years of age.             illegal. Progress is also being made in South
                                                       Africa, Canada and other parts of the world.
While some children in New Zealand may
never be smacked and some are only                     To keep up to date on worldwide progress
occasionally smacked, indications are that             visit and
the ‘normative’ physical discipline in a               look under ‘Latest developments’ and ‘States
significant number of families in New                  which have prohibited’.
Zealand includes use of heavy-handed force
at all ages (even into adolescence), the use of        All New Zealanders should feel proud that
implements, and beatings.                              we have removed the legal defence for
                                                       hitting children.
Larzelere claims that some studies he has
been associated with have found that                   It’s been a wonderful effort and once
physical discipline is effective in achieving          again thanks for all the hard work, and
compliance. His research findings are open             for speaking up for children.
to challenge. Physical punishment does not
contribute to long term compliance, the
internalisation of values and development of
a conscience. Long term compliance (or
socialisation) depends on factors like a
positive and loving relationship between
parent and child, positive modelling by the
parents and reinforcement of desired
behaviours. Research into the effects of
moderate and harsh discipline consistently
shows negative outcomes for children.

It is likely that Robert Larzelere’s interest in
maintaining the legality and use of an
outmoded, unnecessary and potentially
harmful method of child discipline has its
basis in religious convictions (not supported
by all Christians).