It has been 50 years since Kempe et al. published ‘The Battered Child Syndrome’, describing harm from inflicted injury mechanisms derived from parents and care givers. Since then, there has emerged a rapidly expanding literature on paediatric forensic medicine and child protection, which has offered new insights into injury mechanisms, informed us of the sequelae of abuse and neglect, aided diagnosis and guided clinical practice in the treatment and management of children who become involved in the child protection system. Through the scrutiny of government inquiries and at times uncomfortable media exposure, there have been improvements in child protection and forensic practices resulting in recognition of need for specialised forensic training, improved funding, development of resources and development of professional standards that support accountable, objective, safe and robust practice. From the perspective of an Australian child protection paediatrician, this paper chronicles some of the most significant and at times controversial research in the last 50 years in child protection that have played a key role in shaping our current understanding of child abuse and neglect.