Sydney Morning Herald, September 28, 2000

Smacking ban may be lifted for carers

Foster parents would no longer be banned from physically punishing children in their care under proposed new draft child protection regulations, sparking concern from welfare groups.

The regulations are being prepared for the introduction of new child protection legislation passed in December 1998 but awaiting implementation later this year.

They include details about the required care for children, accreditation of agencies, and a code of conduct for foster carers.

While existing regulations explicitly ban corporal punishment, the draft of the new regulations, which will replace them, does not contain such a provision.

The director of the NSW Council of Social Service, Mr Gary Moore, said the child protection legislation stated the rights of the child were paramount, and these rights should be safe-guarded. "It is unnerving to think that the Government's draft regulations might breach this fundamental principle."

Mr Moore warned some agencies had "not shown a strong commitment to the protection of children from inappropriate physical punishment" in the past.

Currently, foster parents have to ensure a child is not subjected to or threatened with corporal punishment, immobilisation, force-feeding, deprivation of food, or any punishment "that is intended to humiliate or frighten" it.

A parliamentary committee is investigating a proposed law which would prevent parents from hitting their children with implements.

The chief executive of the Association of Children's Welfare Agencies, Mr Nigel Spence, said he did not want to see parents deemed criminals for lightly smacking a toddler.

But foster children often had a history of being physically mistreated. "It is of particular concern that they not be subjected to any form of physical punishment," he said.

The president of the Foster Care Association, Ms Pat Walker, said foster carers had been told not to smack children, but had been given no help in how to discipline the children in their care.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Community Services said all involved were being consulted on the draft regulations. "[It] has encouraged public debate leading to fine-tuning of the draft and ensuring that the views of groups affected by the regulation are taken into consideration."

It was the Government's aim to have the regulations ready for the implementation of the new act, she said.

The Government wants to pass various amendments to the legislation when the Upper House resumes on October 10. The spokeswoman said it would then take about four to six weeks for the act to be proclaimed. Text of article goes here.

Return to Newsroom Index or to Table of Contents