A NSW Central Coast man has become the first Australian father to be sentenced under legislation specifically aimed at protecting children from physical punishment.
The case was hailed as a "landmark" yesterday by the head of Australians Against Child Abuse, Joe Tucci, whose national organisation has been campaigning for the outlawing of smacking and other physical disciplining of children for five years.
The Woy Woy father was reported in a NSW Sunday newspaper as having been given a 12-month good behaviour bond for using a leather belt on his son, 5, and leaving bruising on the boy's bottom and thighs.
The report said police acted on a complaint in January from the boy's mother, who took her son to hospital for treatment.
Mr Tucci said the case, prosecuted under the Act which came into effect last December, was a landmark. But the NSW statute was only a "good first step".
"Under that legislation parents aren't allowed to hit kids above the shoulders or anywhere else so it leaves a mark for anything longer than a short time," he said. "We started talking about it five years ago. We've been pushing the Tasmanian, Victorian and NSW governments to introduce legislation to outlaw physical punishment altogether."
Mr Tucci said in every state, either in a crimes Act or code or by virtue of the common law, parents had access to a legal defence of "lawful coercion" or "reasonable chastisement".
"You and I don't have that if we hit another adult," he said.
Physically punishing children has been banned in 13 European countries, with Norway and Sweden leading the way.
Mr Tucci said he expected that Tasmania would be the first state to completely outlaw physical punishment.
Parliamentary inquiries on the issue have recently been conducted in Britain.
Last year Australian Family Court Chief Justice Alastair Nicholson called for new laws to treat the smacking of children as an assault.
Queensland's Commissioner for Children and Young People, Robin Sullivan, spoke out two years ago about the detrimental effects of disciplining children by physical punishment.
But a spokesman for Families Minister Judy Spence said there were no plans to change Queensland laws, which banned unreasonable force in disciplining children.