Mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect: Does it really make a difference?

Document Type

Journal Article


Blackwell Publishers Ltd


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences


School of International, Cultural and Community Studies




Originally published as: Ainsworth, F. (2002). Mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect: Does it really make a difference?. Child & Family Social Work, 7(1), 57-63. Original article available here.


Mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect has its origins in the USA, where model statutes for laws designed to introduce this process were first drafted in the early 1960s. Indeed, every state and the District of Columbia passed a child abuse reporting law between 1963 and 1967. Some 10 years later, in 1977, New South Wales was the first Australian state to pass comparable legislation. Mandatory reporting of suspected cases of child abuse and neglect is now in place in all Australian states and territories, with the exception of Western Australia. The question considered in this paper is: ‘What evidence is there that children are abused and neglected less in jurisdictions where mandatory reporting exists by comparison with jurisdictions where it does not exist?’ This question is examined by way of a comparison between two states, New South Wales and Western Australia. This paper also raises questions about the cost of mandatory reporting and the extent to which it diverts financial resources away from support services for families. There is also a question about the new New South Wales child protection legislation that extends mandatory reporting and possible negative consequences for ordinary families. The final question is about the role assigned to health care and education professionals under this legislation.




Link to publisher version (DOI)