A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry into sexual abuse by members of religious organisations in Ballarat and other locations has received additional staffing to complete its work.
Announced by Premier Ted Baillieu and Attorney-General Robert Clark in April, the Victorian Parliament’s Family and Community Development Committee has been described by victims and campaigners as under-resourced.
Yesterday Mr Baillieu wrote to the MPs outlining new staffing for the inquiry, including a senior legal adviser, a solicitor, a senior retired police officer and counsellors for witnesses.
The committee will also get a public relations officer and administrative support, with further resources to be provided, if required, once the inquiry is under way.
The Courier understands a number of religious orders and the Catholic Church have engaged leading Melbourne lawyers for the inquiry. Ballarat Bishop Peter Connors and Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart have both committed to co-operating fully with the inquiry, which is likely to hear evidence relating to decades of abuse in Ballarat – including by convicted Christian Brother Robert Charles Best and priest Father Gerald Ridsdale. Public submissions opened last month.
Commission of Inquiry Now spokesperson Dr Brian Keon-Cohen QC said the extra staffing represented a serious effort to deal with the legacy of abuse, but questions remained around the committee’s evidence powers and ability to punish those who fail to co-operate.
He said rules covering contempt of parliament were “next to useless”.
“The inquiry should spend a month sitting in Ballarat, as we know of up to 40 suicides in the diocese and the appalling conduct of Best and Ridsdale there,” he said.