Experts are calling for the smacking of children to be banned once and for all.
Experts are calling for the smacking of children to be banned once and for all.

New push to make smacking a crime

SMACKING children should become a crime, to tackle the scourge of domestic violence, National Children's Commissioner Megan Mitchell declared yesterday.

Ms Mitchell called for a smacking ban, warning that parents who punished kids by hitting them are teaching them violence is okay.

"One child every two weeks is killed by a parent,'' she told The Courier-Mail in an exclusive interview.

"Unfortunately, it is legal to hit kids and that gives mixed messages to parents and children.

"I would like to get to the point where we do ban corporal punishment because there are much better and effective ways of disciplining kids.''

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday stopped short of supporting a ban, but declared that times had changed.

"I'm not going to get into people's rooms about discipline, but people should be very conscious that times have changed and I don't think it's anywhere near as prevalent as it was decades ago,'' she told The Courier-Mail.

"Respectful relationships need to happen in the home.''

Ms Mitchell, who has given children a voice through the Australian Human Rights Commission for the past seven years, said parents often hit children after losing their temper. She said hitting children was a form of assault.

"So many deaths of kids involve discipline gone wrong,'' she said.

"A lot of parents resort to physical punishment because they don't know what else to do.

"It gives a message about violence and control.

"We need to help parents set boundaries and manage children's behaviour in other ways.''

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The Queensland Criminal Code states that parents and teachers can use "reasonable force'' to "correct, discipline, manage or control'' a child.

Ms Mitchell said parents would still be able to yank children out of harm's way if they tried to run into traffic or touch a hot stove.

"Of course you can use physical control to restrain a child from hurting themselves,'' she said. "It's deliberate physical assault that is the real problem, especially when people are out of control.''

Ms Mitchell said children were not parents' possessions.

"We treat children like possessions and don't honour and understand their developmental needs, and the trauma we inflict on them as a society,'' she said.

Child safety departments across Australia substantiated 32,000 cases of abuse and neglect of children in 2017-18, the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows.

Fifteen per cent were physically abused and 59 per cent were subjected to emotional abuse, which includes witnessing domestic violence against a parent or other children.

Queensland's Child Safety Department substantiated 6494 cases of child abuse in 2018-19, with another 6570 cases in the nine months to September last year.

Ms Mitchell said children abused at home suffered greatly, and could grow up to continue the cycle of domestic violence with their own partners and children.

"We need to teach an entire generation that using violence is wrong,'' she said.

"We need to stamp out child abuse - it's not going away.''

*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.



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