EMOTIONS ran high in Parliament House this morning as the state government inquiry into institutionalised child sex abuse released its recommendations.
Despite Legislative Council president Bruce Atkinson asking for silence from onlookers, both the packed gallery and members applauded speeches from Family and Community Development Committee chairman Georgie Crozier and members Andrea Coote and David O'Brien.
Mr O'Brien, the Western Victoria MLC, became particularly emotional when talking about the abuse effects on the Ballarat diocese.
"The rape of children, or criminal child abuse, is a gross abuse of trust," Mr O'Brien said.
"And trusted organisations covered up these crimes."
Mr O'Brien listed all the towns in the Ballarat diocese where child sex abuse had occurred as a testament to the victims.
"This list refutes any suggestion abuse was not systemic in the Ballarat diocese."
He said many towns contained numerous victims as offenders were moved around the diocese.
"It affected whole Western Victorian communities and, for that, the church stands condemned."
Mr O'Brien said the task for victims and their families would go on, but the committee hoped its recommendations would provide genuine reparation for all victims.
Ms Crozier said the committee heard 578 submissions and held 162 hearings, of which 56 were private, including in Melbourne, Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.
"It affected whole Western Victorian communities and, for that, the church stands condemned"
She said they read 604 complaint files where "the devastating effects of child abuse were clearly evident".
"Children cannot be expected to protect themselves from crime. It is up to us as a community to safeguard their wellbeing."
She said the report showed the abuse was often not acted on but covered up to protect the perpetrator and the organisation's finances.
While she said it was not the committee's role to investigate individual cases, they had referred 135 cases to the Sano Taskforce set up to investigate institutionalised child abuse.
"These recommendations provide an umbrella of protection from the consequences of the heinous crime of child abuse."
"It will provide an easier path for victims in their pursuit of justice."
The recommendations include mandatory reporting of child abuse for everybody, excluding child abuse from the statute of limitations, providing alternative justice avenues for victims who don't wish to take civil action, greater scrutiny of organisations and enhancement of prevention systems.
Ms Crozier said it was an enormous privilege to have worked on a committee of such significance.
"I believe our inquiry marks the beginning. We not only listened, we heard.
"We have set a new benchmark in the future protection of children."
Ms Coote said the Catholic Church did not see the abuse as raising questions about its own behaviour, excluding Geelong priest Father Kevin Dillon.
"A sliding morality has emerged in the Catholic Church," Ms Coote said.
"Even today church leaders are reluctant to acknowledge they have tried to protect the church."