Terms of reference for royal commission praised by victims of sexual abuse

BALLARAT victims of sexual abuse have praised the terms of reference announced yesterday for the royal commission on institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

The terms will see a six-member royal commission take place, with an interim report due by mid 2014 and final recommendations by the end of 2015.

Justice Peter McClellan AM will head the inquiry, which will have “far-reaching powers” including to override confidentiality agreements.

The terms will also give commissioners the power to set up a special “investigative unit’’, which will work closely with police to investigate and prosecute past abuses.

There have been about 200 formal written submissions on the commission’s terms of reference, plus about 600 emails.

Victim of sexual abuse Stephen Wood said the terms of reference were promising.

“I’m pleased it seems they’re putting enough resources into it because we know it’s going to be a large inquiry. There are so many victims, especially in Ballarat,” he said.

“Lots of victims are wanting a sense of justice to come from this so there will undoubtedly be prosecutions because so many victims have not come forward yet.”

When asked if he would give evidence, Mr Wood was emphatic.

“Oh yes, absolutely. I can’t wait,” he said.

One Ballarat victim who elected not to be named said the government should be praised for taking action.

“We’ve got to thank Julia Gillard for saying, ‘yes the Royal Commission should go ahead’ and it’s good she had the confidence to go ahead,” he said.

“It’s fantastic and at least we’re getting somewhere but on the other hand it’s too slow. It can let them know they’re coming and all of a sudden it gives them time to destroy evidence.”

But he said this was just the beginning.

“It will go on for years because there have been some really bad paedophiles in Ballarat,” he said. “I don’t know why but it seems to be one of the worst areas around.”