Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 1 July 2008) . . Page.. 2520 ..
government’s amendment. With respect to emotional harm my amendment restricts the meaning of unreasonable discipline to behavioural management strategies that are likely to cause significant emotional harm to children. This ensures that childcare workers are not branded as criminals for insignificant emotional harm to children, such as the kinds of tantrums and emotional reactions which we know that children sometimes have to perfectly reasonable requests and instructions.
My amendment also amends the examples of unreasonable discipline to make it clear that only abusive or excessive yelling should be regarded as unreasonable and only seriously threatening or humiliating language. This would ensure that a single instance of a loss of patience leading to yelling at a child would not be regarded as an offence so long as it does not cause significant emotional harm. In other words, if a childcare worker loses their patience and yells at a child and the child cries then this on its own would not be enough to form an offence unless the court regarded this as abusive or excessive yelling or believed that this was likely to cause significant emotional harm to the child.
I think that these amendments strike a sensible balance between the legitimate expectations of parents in the community when they leave their children in childcare and also the legitimate rights of childcare workers not to be railroaded into potential prison situations for minor lapses of judgement in the workplace.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (5.53): I am inclined to support Mr Mulcahy’s amendment. While I grew up in a home where yelling never occurred, I certainly did not grow up in a home where there was not approbation and emotional abuse expressed in other ways. Interestingly enough, I used to be quite shocked when I visited my friends—certainly I have observed this as an adult—and discovered that in other households yelling and shouting is just part of the normal run of things. Everyone shouts; everyone yells. It is not my style, it is a cultural thing and I do not think it is up to me to condemn it.
I am also aware, having been a teacher, that sometimes one has to yell. “Yell” is an interesting word, isn’t it? The word “shout” would have less of a connotation—
Mr Gentleman: There is a connotation of harm. That is the point.
DR FOSKEY: Yelling does not necessarily connote harm to me.
Mr Gentleman: It has to have caused harm.
DR FOSKEY: Yes. I certainly do not agree that we should yell or shout in a way that would cause harm. I feel, however, that we do need to be aware of the cultural issues and the fact that somebody might yell out of frustration or just lose their cool for a moment. I can tell you that when working with children that can happen to the most wonderful, saintly otherwise law-abiding person. I am not sure of the degree of difference that Mr Mulcahy’s amendment would make. If someone will hand me a copy of the government’s amendment I will make an informed comparison.
MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Health, Minister for Children and Young People, Minister for Disability and Community Services, Minister for