Empirical analysis has found that mandatory reporting legislation has positive effects on case identification of child sexual abuse both initially and over the long term. However, there is little analysis of the initial and ongoing impact on child protection systems of the rate of reports that are made if a reporting duty for child sexual abuse is introduced, especially when compared with rates of reports for other kinds of child maltreatment. This research analysed government administrative data at the unique child level over a seven-year period to examine trends in reports of child sexual abuse, compared with child physical abuse, in two Australian states having different socio-legal dimensions. Data mining generated descriptive statistics and rates per 100,000 children involved in reports per annum, and time trend sequences in the seven-year period. The first state, Western Australia, introduced the legislative reporting duty in the middle of the seven-year period, and only for sexual abuse. The second state, Victoria, had possessed mandatory reporting duties for both sexual and physical abuse for over a decade. Our analysis identified substantial intra-state increases in the reporting of child sexual abuse attributable to the introduction of a new legislative reporting duty, and heightened public awareness resulting from major social events. Victoria experienced nearly three times as many reports of physical abuse as Western Australia. The relative burden on the child protection system was most clearly different in Victoria, where reports of physical abuse were relatively stable and two and a half times higher than for sexual abuse. Rates of children in reports, even at their single year peak, indicate sustainable levels of reporting for child welfare agencies. Substantial proportions of reports were made by both legislatively mandated reporters, and non-mandated community members, suggesting that government agencies would benefit from engaging with communities and professions to enhance a desirable reporting practice.
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