The Institute of Child Protection Studies joined a steering group in April 2022 to begin a campaign to end corporal punishment in Australia. The campaign name is: Ending physical punishment of Australian children (EPPAC). This work, auspiced by the Parenting and Family Research Alliance, has attracted a highly engaged multidisciplinary working group of over 100 researchers and community service leaders.


Corporal punishment of children is legal in Australia. Recent data from 16-24 year olds who took part in the national Australian Child Maltreatment Study shows that 61% of Australians experienced corporal punishment as children. This has lifelong adverse effects on mental health. However, international research from some of the 64 countries where corporal punishment is banned, shows that once legislation is introduced, parents use better strategies to teach their children acceptable behaviour.

This campaign will spearhead a movement to reform our current legislation, give parents access to alternative evidence-based parenting strategies, and increase public awareness of corporal punishment and its effects. Workshops and conferences delivered have addressed the following topics:

  • the current state of legislation
  • research on harmful impacts
  • alternative parenting strategies
  • international experiences of banning corporal punishment.

Key recommendations

  • Legislative reform to ensure children are protected under law from any form of physical assault (in the same way that adults are) in all settings.
  • A public health campaign to inform the population the law has changed.
  • Ensure widespread access to alternatives to corporal punishment through widespread dissemination of evidence-based parenting programs and supports, including culturally appropriate parenting strategies.
  • A national parenting survey to monitor the impact of legislative reform on corporal punishment in Australia.
  • Ongoing evaluation of the impact of the change in legislation and access to supports for positive parenting strategies.

Get in touch with us to join the campaign, to learn about workshops and to contribute.


Havighurst, S., Mathews, B., Doyle, F. L., Haslam, D. M., Andriessen, K., Cubillor, C., Dawe, S., Hawes, D., Leung, C., Mazzucchelli, T. G., Morawska, A., Whittle, S., Chainey, C., & Higgins, D. J. (2023). Corporal punishment of children in Australia: The evidence-based case for legislative reform. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

Higgins, D. & Havighurst, S. (2022). Research shows it's harmful to smack your child, so what should parents do instead? The Conversation, 26 July 2022

Higgins, D. & Havighurst, S. (2022). Corporal punishment of children in Australia: The evidence-based case for legislative reform, Briefing paper. PAFRA.

Conference presentations

November 2022, Tri-Peaks Partnership (2022). The Australian Child Maltreatment Study: Update on progress, and implications for policy and practice, Presented by Prof. Ben Matthews, Prof. Daryl Higgins (PowerPoint slides, Recording of presentation)

September 2022: National Child Protection Week 2022, Are Aussie kids OK? Preview data from the Australian Child Maltreatment Study. Professor Daryl Higgins, Professor Ben Mathews, and Dr Divna Haslam, 8 September 2022

July 2022, Australian Institute of Family Studies, The national prevalence of childhood corporal punishment and associated mental health outcomes, Prof. Daryl Higgins

In the news

Print and online

7 May 2023: Sixty-five countries have banned smacking children - why isn't Australia one of them? The Guardian (Donna Lu)

3 May 2023, Evidence-based paper calls for corporal punishment ban. ACU News

3 May 2023, It's time to ban corporal punishment of kids in Australia. Pursuit (Sophie Havighurst)

3 May 2023, Smacking ban urged to protect children's mental health. The Canberra Times (Neve Brissenden)

Television and radio

17 May: Corporal Punishment, (ABC Behind the News, produced by Joseph Baronio)

3 May 2023, New study reveals smacked children are twice as likely to develop mental illness. Perth Now (7 News)

3 May 2023, Evidence shows it's time to ban corporal punishment. 9News Melbourne (Dougal Beatty)

3 May 2023, New push to make smacking illegal. 9Now Today (Karl Stefanovic & Sarah Abo) 

14 April 2023, One in four Australian children have been sexually abused: Research. The Wire (Netta Finney)

11 April 2023, Results from the Australian Child Maltreatment Study. 88.3FM Southern FM Best Medicine (Health and well-being with Gaytana Adorna) 

More information

Get in touch with us to join the campaign, to learn about workshops and to contribute.

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