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Trends in hospital admissions for conditions associated with child maltreatment, Northern Territory, 1999-2010

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Child maltreatment statistics are routinely reported by child protection services in all Australian jurisdictions.1 There are well documented variations in both the rates and trends of these statistics among states and territories. In the 6 years from 2004–05 to 2009–10, notifications of possible maltreatment increased fourfold in Western Australia but halved in Queensland. For the same period, the number of substantiated cases halved in the Australian Capital Territory but increased threefold in the Northern Territory.1 Explanations for the variation both within and between jurisdictions include: varying mandatory reporting requirements; changes in the threshold for documenting reports; changes in definitions; and changes in policy and service capacity.2 Rates also vary between countries. The rate for Australian children subject to substantiated maltreatment was 6.1 per 1000 in 2009–10,1 compared with 14.2 per 1000 in Canada in 20083 and 3.6 per 1000 children in England in 2009–10.4 Improved understanding of variations in child maltreatment rates is important in informing the rational development of services and has led to efforts to expand the sources of information used for child maltreatment surveillance. One possible source is hospital inpatient…