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Child abuse stats 'horrendous': NT govt

AAP logoAAP 23/11/2016 Lucy Hughes Jones

Northern Territory Minister for Children Nicole Manison admits it will take a decade to achieve better outcomes for NT kids as new figures reveal the number of child abuse reports are skyrocketing.

There was a 20 per cent spike in reports of potential harm to children last year, and Aboriginal kids again made up the majority of cases, the NT children's commissioner annual report shows.

Ms Manison said it was "horrendous" that the number of notifications of potential child abuse has more than doubled in the past five years.

"Too many children have lives that they don't deserve," she said on Thursday.

Almost 1800 children were neglected or abused in one year, and the government failed to protect nearly a quarter of them from further harm.

Indigenous kids comprise less than half of all children in the Territory, but accounted for 78 per cent of all harm notifications last year, a figure that has continued to grow annually.

"It's not good enough.That's why we're targeting this early childhood space," Ms Manison, who is also pregnant, said.

"It's not going to take just this term if government alone to get the results we need - we're looking at about 10 years to really see the change we want."

The new Labor government on Thursday announced five expert panellists would advise on the Territory's Early Childhood Development Plan, which seeks to achieve generational improvement in health and education outcomes.

Ms Manison, who is also NT Treasurer, said investing in children early in life is going to save the government money down the road through reduced support services and incarceration costs.

"It is a no brainer," she said.

The government has outlayed $15 million in the 2017/18 financial year for building a new youth detention centre to replace the notorious Don Dale facility where boys were tear gassed two years ago.

But Ms Manison concedes that funding won't be nearly enough.

"I've certainly heard a figure that's in the tens of millions more... we will be talking to the Commonwealth about that," she said.

Children's commissioner Colleen Gwynne says there's a real breakdown in the child protection system, and staff need to be better resourced and trained.

She advocated early intervention to asses the triggers that lead to a child entering into care.

"That's the crisis point... (but) what has happened to the child up until then?" she told ABC local radio.

Ms Gwynne called for a co-ordinated government response, supported by non-government services and the community as a whole.

"We can't turn a blind eye to the continued neglect of our children. We've all got a part to play here," she said.

"If we expect that one department is going to be able to turn this around then we are fooling ourselves."

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