IMAGINE you’re at work and decide to quickly check Facebook, hoping no one will notice. Then out of nowhere — whack — a sharp blow to the head. Your boss has hit you.
Outrageous, isn’t it?
If this ever happened you’d make a complaint and have the matter dealt with. Your boss may face disciplinary action, or even criminal charges.
However, hitting children as a form of discipline is either still allowed or not explicitly banned in some schools across Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.
Even worse, it hasn’t been explicitly banned in early childhood care settings in Queensland and remains lawful in childcare in Tasmania.
Children are the only group in the world who can be legitimately physically punished under the guise of discipline. It’s wrong.
That is why Save the Children is using this National Child Protection Week to call for all states to outlaw the harmful practice of hitting children in schools.
Corporal punishment is an outdated, archaic practice which has massive negative impacts on children’s lives.
In Australia, the interim report of the royal commission into institutional responses to child sex abuse found that “many survivors reported a culture of fear in institutions created by severe physical abuse. This created an environment in which sexual abuse was both possible and unlikely to be disclosed”.
Violent discipline is harming our children and there’s a growing mountain of evidence showing it.
According to the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, over 150 studies have linked corporal punishment to a range of negative outcomes, while no studies have found evidence of any benefits. None.
We know that on average, children who are hit at school become more aggressive, are more likely to be involved in anti-social behaviour and to use violence against others later in life. They also find it harder to concentrate in class, associate fear with education and are more likely to drop out.
What’s the alternative? Positive discipline, for one, is a proven approach to both parenting at home and teaching at school.
It’s about helping children develop their own self-discipline, teaching them to respect their peers and to make good decisions, all the while learning important life skills and gaining confidence.
This National Children Protection Week we urge all Australian states and territories to follow the lead of NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, which have banned corporal punishment both in government and non-government schools.
NSW has also made the bold move to replace its Commission for Children and Young People with a new office called the Advocate for Children and Young People, which represents the interests of everyone under 25 and gives them a strong voice in matters that impact their lives.
NSW is setting a powerful example for other states to follow — both in terms of improving advocacy for children and young people and protecting them from violence in educational settings.
Australia is a proud signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child — originally penned by Save the Children’s founder Eglantyne Jebb — and in the year of the 25th anniversary of the convention we should be working towards ensuring all children are protected from violence.
Until corporal punishment is outlawed completely and the current legal loopholes are closed, we are failing our legal obligations under the treaty and our moral obligations to our children, who will be the leaders of tomorrow.