Abstract On 2 May, 2007, the New Zealand Parliament passed a law repealing Section 59 of the Crimes Act. In so doing, New Zealand became the first English-speaking nation in the world to make corporal punishment of a child illegal. The passage of this legislation was surrounded by intense and persistent public debate, and supporters of corporal punishment continue to advocate against the law change to the present day. In Sweden, where the first stage of similar repeal took place in 1957, it may be difficult for many to understand the strength of the public opposition to this change in New Zealand. This article will present a viewpoint on the evolution of the debate in New Zealand, review the wider context of child maltreatment and family violence in New Zealand and summarize a range of attempts to prevent or intervene effectively in the cycle of dysfunction. Conclusion: Child maltreatment and family violence are public health issues of great importance, and a stain on all societies. While corporal punishment may be a significant contributing factor, there is no single ‘solution’. Change must occur on multiple levels (political, economic, cultural, familial and professional) before the tide will turn.