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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 5 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1373..


MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Training) (11.49): Mr Speaker, Mr Moore has proposed amendments to both the ACT Education Act 1937 and the Schools Authority Act 1976 to prohibit the use of corporal punishment in schools. I note, firstly, what he actually says in his Bills. He seems to have appropriate safeguards there in relation to other matters too. The Bills seem to be properly legally drafted, and so will achieve the desired effect, if passed by the Assembly - I understand that they will be passed, as they have majority support - and will do the things he wishes without interfering in any other way. I make that point.

The issue is obviously a sensitive one. There are many community views which have to be considered. In relation to the first Bill, Mr Speaker, perhaps it is really an unnecessary Bill, in that since 1987 corporal punishment has not been used in government schools. So, what Mr Moore's Bill does there is merely enshrine in legislation what has, in fact, been the practice for some 10 years. In reality, that really is a non-issue. On the other hand, there is a part of the non-government school community who wish to retain corporal punishment in their schools. They argue that it is an issue for parents. Additionally, Mr Speaker, those people and non-government school representative bodies express the view that the legislation is unnecessary and an unwarranted intrusion.

I note in relation to the non-government schools that, in the Anglican schools and the Catholic systemic schools, corporal punishment has not been used for many years in the Australian Capital Territory. Again, it is very much a non-issue there. There are a number of smaller non-government schools, however, who either use corporal punishment or still at least have the option of using it as a last resort. I understand that there is some opposition to Mr Moore's Bill certainly from that quarter.

Mr Speaker, as I said, at the end of 1987 the policy was changed, and since the 1988 school year corporal punishment has been banned in ACT government schools. Every school board is required to develop a policy on the management of student behaviour which does not involve corporal punishment. As I have also indicated, almost all non-government schools in the ACT have behaviour management policies that do not include corporal punishment. Since 1992, corporal punishment has been formally banned in all Catholic systemic schools in the ACT. Indeed, Mr Speaker, I understand that it has not been used in Catholic systemic schools for at least eight years. I understand that there are some five or six independent non-government schools that still have corporal punishment in their student behaviour management policies. I understand that two of those remaining schools continue to use it in practice.

Mr Speaker, registration standards for non-government schools require each school to have a comprehensive behaviour management policy stating that corporal punishment is a last resort option and that full written records must be kept of any instance where it is used. A scan of national policies reveals that corporal punishment is banned in government schools in all States and Territories, with the exception of Tasmania and the Northern Territory. The banning of corporal punishment in government schools in South Australia dates back to 1982. Legislation outlawing corporal punishment was passed in New South Wales in 1995.


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