PM announces probe into Church's child sex abuse

Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Prime Minister Julia Gillard Chris Ison

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has announced a Royal Commission to investigate child sex abuse within a range of institutions .

Ms Gillard made the announcement late on Monday after consulting her Cabinet colleagues.

The terms of reference and a royal commissioner will be decided in the coming weeks, with Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and Families Minister Brendan O'Connor taking the lead roles.

The pair has been tasked with consulting state and territory governments, religious groups, victims' groups and other organisations with the aim of having the commission established by the end of the year.

Ms Gillard said the investigation would not focus solely on the Catholic Church, as many had been calling for, but would examine "institutional responses to instances and allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia".

This would include religious organisations, state-run institutions, church and state-run schools and not-for-profit organisations, including sporting clubs and Scouts.

The Royal Commission will also look at the response of children's services agencies and the police to allegations of child abuse.

Ms Gillard said given the size, scope and importance of the Royal Commission it would likely "take quite some time" to complete.

"This I hope will help with healing, but I specifically hope that its recommendations will help us ensure that this never, ever happens again," Ms Gillard said.

She said recent revelations of child abuse, particularly in the Catholic Church, had revealed systematic failures to respond to the "evil" of child abuse.

"Too many children have suffered child abuse but have also seen other adults let them down," she said.

"They've not only had their trust betrayed by the abuser, but other adults who could have acted to assist them have failed to do so.

"There have been revelations of child abusers being moved from place to place rather than the nature of their abuse and their crimes being dealt with.

"There have been too many revelations of adults who have averted their eyes from this evil."

The Royal Commission comes after New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell said he would convene a special inquiry into allegations of child sexual abuse of children by clergymen in the Hunter region.

In Queensland, the Carmody Commission is already conducting an inquiry into the child protection system more generally, while a Victorian parliamentary inquiry was also under way into allegations of church abuse in that state.

Earlier on Monday, former prime minister Kevin Rudd said such state inquiries may not be enough.

Chief Government Whip Joel Fitzgibbon added to the calls for a royal commission, while further pressure came from key independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the Coalition would support any inquiry the government was willing to establish.

"Wherever abuse has occurred it must be tackled and it must be tackled vigorously, openly and transparently," he said in a statement.

"A lot of terrible things have been done, and a lot of people have suffered deeply.

"For these reasons, if the government were to propose a royal commission to investigate the sexual abuse of children, it is something the Coalition would be prepared to support.

Mr Abbott said any investigation must be wide-ranging and should not be limited to the examination "of any one institution".

Topics:  catholic church child sex julia gillard royal commission sexual abuse

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