Children's Human Rights and Social Work Advocacy: “Lawful Correction”

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In Australia, adults are afforded greater protection from assault than children. The “lawful correction” defence stems from an 1860 UK judgement that condoned the correction of “evil in the child” through the infliction of “moderate and reasonable corporal punishment”, including with an implement. While more enlightened attitudes towards children are now evident, “childism” (discriminatory and disempowering attitudes towards children) persists. Corporal punishment remains an outdated parental privilege, and a lawful infringement of children’s human rights. In light of increasing scientific research evidence of its detrimental effects, it is also a public health issue, and this article advocates for its full prohibition. Despite United Nations’ censure, and bans in 54 countries, Australian governments have failed to adequately recognise children’s rights to dignity and protection from harm. As social work positions itself as a human rights profession seeking to address injustice, disempowerment, and disadvantage, social workers and the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) are called to advocate for children and for law reform.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-502
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Social Work
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2019


  • Child Protection
  • Human Rights
  • Law Reform
  • Parenting
  • Physical Punishment
  • Social Work Advocacy

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