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NT police investigate child abuse -

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LISA MILLAR: Northern Territory police are sending a special task force today to the remote town of
Nhulunbuy in far east Arnhem Land, to investigate allegations of a sex trade with girls as young as

Police say they've known about the allegations for at least a year but have struggled to come up
with enough evidence to take action. Locals have reported that men in the town are paying girls
with cash, drugs or alcohol to have sex with them.

Anne Barker reports.

ANNE BARKER: The allegations of child abuse on the remote Gove peninsula are hardly new, the report
that last year triggered the Commonwealth's intervention in the Northern Territory included
disturbing evidence of a rampant sex trade between underage Indigenous girls and mining employees.

The Northern Territory's acting assistant police commissioner Colleen Gwynne says the latest
allegations are every bit as serious.

COLLEEN GWYNNE: We're looking at exploitation of young girls in relation to the transfer of alcohol
or drugs, in relation to sex.

ANNE BARKER: How many girls do you think have been abused in this way?

COLLEEN GWYNNE: Look it's definitely too early to tell, once we can spend some days out there and
talk to people then I'll certainly be in a position to say that this is what we believe has
occurred or is occurring.

ANNE BARKER: A Northern Territory police task force on child abuse is flying to Nhulunbuy today.
Colleen Gwynne says investigators have a number of people they plan to interview - but as has
happened so many times in the past too many people who speak to the media, are then reluctant to
talk to police.

COLLEEN GWYNNE: We've interviewed a number of people at this stage there's never been anything
specific that anyone's been able to tell us. You know from, you know, the reports that I've read
this morning is of people going direct to the media.

All that I can stress is that if you have any information, we have mandatory reporting requirements
in the Northern territory and really your first point of call should be police.

ANNE BARKER: So why do you think people have been so reluctant to come forward with information to

COLLEEN GWYNNE: Sometimes they're a bit intimidated - we're doing a lot of work to try and ensure
that, we build some pretty good networks and some rapport with people in communities to ensure that
there's not those perceived barriers, and I think that with the formation of the child abuse task
force, we've come a long way to try and resolve some of those issues.

ANNE BARKER: Do you think some of the victims; the girls themselves are being intimidated not to
talk with police?

COLLEEN GWYNNE: I can't say that, but that has happened in the past. I can't say that in relation
to these reports but it definitely has happened in the past.

ANNE BARKER: One Nhulunbuy local - a retired school principal Leon White - says there's been a
culture of silence in Nhulunbuy for decades, which has allowed such abuse to flourish. And if
police are to make any headway in tackling such abuse, he says there must be efforts to deal with
the cultural sensitivities young victims face.

LEON WHITE: Not just an interpreter-translator service but actually a supportive role to make sure
that the girls feel that they won't be subjected to any ramifications or victimisation as a result
of them providing this evidence.

LISA MILLAR: That's Leon White, a Nhulunbuy local resident, ending that report by Anne Barker.