Last updated 8 June 2016
Adults have no absolute right to punish a child. If adults punish a child by applying force to the child, they may commit an assault. An assault is both a criminal offence and a civil wrong, giving the child the right to compensation for pain and any medical or other expenses incurred as a result. Where inappropriate or unreasonable force has been used in punishing a child, criminal sanctions may apply.
Punishment by parents
It is lawful for a parent or a person in place of a parent (e.g. a school teacher) to discipline a child under their care by using such force as is reasonable in the circumstances (s 280 Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld)). Parents and other adults in loco parentis (standing in the place of parents) have the right to administer corporal punishment to children in their care, providing it is reasonable under the circumstances.
The character and amount of punishment that may be considered reasonable will vary with the age, sex and apparent physical condition of the child.
However, if a child under a child protection order is placed in the care of a person by the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, a person must not use corporal punishment or punishment that humiliates, frightens or threatens the child in a way that is likely to cause emotional harm (s 122 Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld)).