Abolition of Corporal Punishment in Australia

Corporal punishment is the infliction of physical pain as a form of punishment. It often involves the “punisher” and the “punished”. The power gap between the two is usually great. In today’s society, corporal punishment has been outlawed in several countries. Other countries, however, including Australia still consider it as a form of discipline. Controversies surround this issue.

It is unclear why the only people it is legal to smack are the most vulnerable, the children. Corporal punishment is classified under the settings it takes place. If it occurs at home, it is referred to as domestic corporal punishment. Corporal punishment taking place in school is referred to as school corporal punishment. These two types most frequently fall on children. Judicial corporal punishment, however, is applied to prisoners and sometimes military personnel. These are the only allowed forms of corporal punishment (Pate et al., 2012)

Corporal punishment has always been allowed in the society. For this reason, it has dug deep roots into the culture of some Australian families. Some parents indeed prefer corporal punishment to other punishment types. Various household appliances from wooden spoons to wooden rulers have been used to punish children. Permissiveness of the society, however, have made it okay to punish children by the hand. Slaps and even pinching has been employed by hot-tempered parents. This article dissects the topic of corporal punishment and suggests why it should be made illegal in Australia.

Research Question: Should Corporal Punishment on Australian Children Be Abolished?

Abolition of Corporal Punishment in AustraliaThe suggestion of abolishment of corporal punishment comes from the lukewarm reactions surrounding the issue. Statistics indicate that one-third of parents are opposed to smacking. These parents, according to statistics would not allow even teachers to physically punish their children. The other two-thirds support corporal punishment (Dorpat, 2007). This scenario requires scrutiny since a very large population in Australia is against smacking. All these parents cannot be wrong. After carefully evaluating corporal punishment, they found it unfit. It is their constitutional right to be considered when such a huge number is in conflict. This lukewarm scenario does not only occur in the population. Some Australian states have reformed their constitutions on the stand of corporal punishment.

The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the New South Wales territory. NSW laws specify that corporal punishment should not harm a child more than briefly. The Northern Territory, which is Federal Australian Territory allows parents and teachers to physically punish their children. Teachers are, however, restricted from doing this if the parent of the child explicitly demands not to. Some other Australian states, however, do not have restrictions on physical punishment. This divide between acceptance and denial of physical punishment is what pushes for its abolition (Myers et al., 2005).

Why should it be practiced on part of the population, while the others enjoy different privileges?

The Criminal Code Acts of different states have different limitations to the extent of corporal punishment. Most states even allow an acting legal guardian to physically punish children. These guardians are not parents to the children and therefore should not be protected by the Criminal Code Acts. The fact that corporal punishment is allowed in some places and disallowed in others, makes this an issue for debate (Pate et al., 2012).

Some states limit the extensiveness of corporal punishment. They only allow reasonable physical pain applied on the children as discipline. The extent of too much or too little pain is not established. In the heat of the moment, parents might also lose their temper and apply too much physical pain. For these reasons, corporal punishment should be abolished in Australia.

Upon a psychological review of the research question, much is uncovered. Corporal punishment is one of the least efficient means of discipline. It instills the fear of physical safety in children at a very tender age. A hot-tempered parent, for instance, might smack a child for throwing a tantrum. The root of the tantrum yet to be identified, but action has already been taken.

Concrete psychological evidence suggests that domestic physical punishment results to depression, anxiety, aggression, mental issues, substance abuse and anti-social behavior (Holderhead, 2017). The child grows up in fear of physical pain rather than the discipline of the matter. In this instance, corporal punishment will not identify the solution to the problem either. Most parents even support corporal punishment because it was done to them too as kids. This is no justification for hitting ones own flesh and blood. Sometimes the parent suffers from a psychological condition of abuse. They take out their anger on their children for negligible mistakes.

It might be hard to identify abusive parents since the law allows corporal punishment. From a psychological perspective, hitting children is barbaric. Reasonable chastisement should be viewed for what it really is. More convenient ways of discipline have to be encouraged so as to fight corporal punishment. Parenting courses such as “About boys” (an Australian magazine) encourages communicating as a solution to unruly behavior. Talking to the child and pointing out their wrong-doing is as effortless as corporal punishment. The yields of communication are, however, higher than physical punishment.

Other forms of punishment such as confiscating prized possessions from the child upon wrong-doing can be explored. Guiding and counseling also offer a long time problem solution. For teenagers, however, depending on the degree of wrong-doing, juvenile courts come into action (Myers et al., 2005). Physical punishment leaves a psychological mark on the child that is hardwired into their psyche. The much superior parents due to their superiority complex might feel threatened psychologically by their inferior children and smack them. For these reasons, corporal punishment should be abolished in Australia.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) explicitly demands “absolute protection of children against violence while in the care of parents.” Ironically, Australian law allows these parents to physically and sometimes violently punish their own children (Lui, 2016). Yes, corporal punishment is violent since the terms of the extent of pain administered are not stipulated. A smack to the thigh is incomparable to a smack on the head in terms of future potential risk. International situations also call for the abolishment of corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is both counterintuitive and inconsistent (Dorpat, 2007). It is not reasonable that hitting children is legally right, while hitting other people is considered violent and punishable by law. More than 30 countries worldwide disapprove of corporal punishment of children. Sweden banned all forms of corporal punishments in 1979, even though over half the population supported the issue.

Public attitude shifted after the ban and currently, only a small percentage of society supports corporal punishment. Indeed, this is applicable to Australia too. Even though a majority of its population is in favor of corporal punishment, public attitudes can be negotiated with. Germany, Pakistan, Spain and New Zealand also followed in the steps of the abolishment of corporal punishment.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) is on the forefront of international awareness on the dangers of corporal punishment. Susan Moloney from RACP suggests that most child homicides result from corporal punishments gone wrong. She urges for the protection of children against assault (Dueck, 2005). Furthermore, RACP educates parents on the dangers of corporal punishments and suggest alternative behavioral change techniques. This enlightens the audience on the moral grounds of hitting children in comparison to the criminal charges on hitting other people or even animals. This is a clear suggestion for the abolishment of smacking in Australia.


From the three highlighted arguments, corporal punishment should be outlawed in Australia. Although deeply embedded into society and the judicial system, something has to be done. The consequences are grave, while other forms of punishment are available. To some extent, physical punishment is a façade for child abuse. By law, all Australian states and territories allow (in principle) the use of physical force by parents as a way of disciplining their children. This should, however, take a turn considering the article above.


Dorpat, T. L. (2007). Crimes of punishment: America’s culture of violence. New York, Algora Pub. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=319254.Dueck, A. C. (2005). Why psychology needs theology: a Radical-Reformation perspective.

Grand Rapids [u.a.], Eerdmans.Holderhead, Sherady (2017). Australian QC Felicity Gerry says UK and US Authorities Agree its Time we Banned Smacking. The Advertiser. May 4th. http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/australian-qc-felicity-gerry-says-uk-and-us-authorities-agree-it-is-time-we-banned-smacking/news-story/0bd5426f98b9af4c6c03025b2dbd3ad7 Lui, Spandas (2016). Is it Illegal to Smack Your Child? Oct 10, https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2016/10/is-it-legal-to-smack-your-child

Myers, J. E. B., & MYERS, J. E. B. (2005). Myers on evidence in child, domestic, and elderabuse cases. New York, Aspen Publishers.Pate, M., & Gould, L. A. (2012). Corporal punishment around the world. Santa Barbara Calif, Praeger.

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