Corporal Punishment of Children (Qld)

In all states and territories of Australia, it is lawful to use reasonable force to discipline a child. However, there is a different legislative scheme that governs this in every jurisdiction. This page deals with corporal punishment of children in Queensland.

What is corporal punishment?

Corporal punishment is the use of force to cause pain or discomfort in order to correct or punish a person’s behaviour. The corporal punishment of children often involves smacking, spanking, hitting, or striking with a belt, stick, or cane. It can also include making a child remain in an uncomfortable position for a period of time.


In Queensland, section 280 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 states that it is lawful for a parent or a person acting in the place of a parent or for a schoolmaster or teacher to use physical discipline to punish or control a child or pupil to the extent that is reasonable in the circumstances.

Defence of reasonable punishment

A person who is charged with an assault offence that arises from an incident involving disciplining a child may rely on the defence of reasonable punishment. This defence will only succeed if the level of force used is found to have been reasonable in the circumstances.

What is reasonable?

What is taken to be reasonable force when correcting the behaviour of a child will depend on a number of factors including:

  • the age, maturity, and physical size of the child
  • the nature and extent of the misbehaviour
  • the type of force being used and the area of the body it is used on.

Education and Care Service National Law Act 2010

In 2011, the Education and Care Service National Law Act came into force across Australia. Under section 166 of this Act, it is unlawful for a staff member at an education or care facility to subject the child to any form of physical punishment. However, it is important to note that these laws apply to education and care facilities that deal with children below the age of 13 and not to all education and care facilities in all states and territories. If a person who is working in an education or care facility to which these laws apply subjects a child to physical punishment, they may be charged with an offence.

The passage of this act represented a departure from previous laws in Australia which had allowed the use of corporal punishment of children in education and care settings.

Review of defence of reasonable punishment

During 2007, the Queensland government conducted a review of the defence of reasonable punishment. The review considered 280 instances of parent-child assaults that resulted in prosecutions. The assaults included incidents that fell into the categories of excessive punishment, domestic violence, and child abuse (though the review acknowledged that there was crossover between these categories). The review concluded that the provision did not significantly impact the police’s ability to charge and prosecute parents for assaults of this nature.

Criticisms of the defence

The defence of reasonable punishment has long been the subject of criticism.

Many people argue that violence against children should not be sanctioned in any context or to any extent. There is growing evidence that the use of corporal punishment on children can lead to further behavioural issues, mental health issues, and domestic violence.

A number of other countries have introduced laws prohibiting the use of corporal punishment against children and in many jurisdictions these reforms have been followed by public education campaigns about the potential harmful effects of physical discipline on children. In Australia, some researchers have argued that Australia’s corporal punishment laws are lagging behind.

Supporters of corporal punishment of children argue that parents need to be allowed to use physical discipline to correct bad behaviour and set boundaries.

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