Contrasting approaches to mandatory reporting in New Zealand and the Northern Territory of Australia : a comparative study : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy, the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, Massey University
Responding to increasing societal concern about child abuse by implementing a system for mandatory reporting of suspected abuse occurred in a number of countries since the 1960s. By 1967 in the United States, all states had adopted some form of mandatory reporting and in Australia five states had mandatory reporting by 1982. Other nations, such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand, never legislated in this way and have retained voluntary reporting systems. This study asks why one jurisdiction adopted mandatory reporting and another decided not to, by comparing the history of mandatory reporting policy in the Northern Territory of Australia, which adopted mandatory reporting in 1982. and New Zealand, which rejected that option in 1994. By examining events leading up to the mandatory reporting debates in each jurisdiction, the policy advice provided to each Government beforehand, and the parliamentary fate of the respective proposals, an understanding of what shaped the policy outcome in each is obtained. Particular attention is given to processes of policy formation and the use made of research in developing the advice tendered to each Government. A distinction is drawn between policy-formation and policy-making, the latter being seen as the province of legislators since they finally determine which, from a range of policy options, shall prevail. The study asks what advice did the policy-makers seek and how far they were guided by that advice. The range of standard arguments for and against mandatory reporting is assembled, to determine which, if any, were decisive in the final outcomes. It is concluded that in each jurisdiction, the niceties of policy analysis gave way at the parliamentary level to more determinative political considerations. However, in the case of New Zealand, research-based policy advice was more influential, possibly because of the existence of stronger consultative processes, greater awareness on the part of legislators of alternatives to mandatory reporting, a more critical approach to the assumptions of mandatory reporting, and a determination on the part of the Government that the issue be openly debated.