AFTER days of speculation Prime Minister Julia Gillard late yesterday moved to establish a national royal commission into institutional responses to allegations of child abuse in Australia.
Ms Gillard said terms of reference for the commission would be outlined in coming weeks with one or more royal commissioners to be chosen for what is expected to be a long running and costly inquiry.
Instances of abuse by Catholic clergy in the Ballarat region are expected to be included in the inquiry, which comes as Victorian and New South Wales inquries both consider similar issues.
“I want to get this right,” Ms Gillard said.
“So over the next few weeks we will be consulting with the organisations that represent the survivors of child abuse, with religious organisations, with state and territory government to ensure the terms of reference are right.”
Ms Gillard said she had spoken to Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu, Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell and other leaders and expected a “co-operative approach.”
“Australians know, from the revelations that they’ve read in recent weeks that too many children have suffered child abuse but have also seen other adults let them down,” Ms Gillard 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.”
Ballarat abuse survivor and campaigner Peter Blenkiron said the announcement had the potential to cleanse the church and the community of abuse.
“I have been on the phone to guys who are in tears of absolute joy, tears of relief at this news,” he said.
“There are lives in the balance and this could be cleansing for the church. Why would anyone who is a true Catholic want people like this in their organisation?”
Mr Blenkiron said the commission needed to help save the lives of survivors.
“It must make sure systems are put in place to help survivors battle and to live. There is no point taking three years only to have a trail of bodies at the end.”
Last night, a spokesperson for the Victorian inquiry said it would continue its work, co-operating with the federal inquiry.
If you or a family member require assistance as the result of sexual abuse, contact the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault on 5320 3933.