VICTORIAN Premier Ted Baillieu and Attorney-General Robert Clark this afternoon announced a parliamentary inquiry into sexual abuse by religious clergy and other organisations in Victoria.
The activities of clergy in Ballarat are expected to feature strongly in the inquiry, with evidence related to assaults committed by convicted Christian Brother Robert Charles Best and other clergy at St Alipius Christian Brothers school in the 1960s and 1970s to be heard.
Calls for an inquiry have been growing in recent days following the leaking of an internal Victoria Police report written by Ballarat Detective Kevin Carson which detailed as many as 40 suicides linked to sexual abuse in Ballarat.
The inquiry will run for a year, reporting to Victorian Parliament by April 30th 2013.
Rejecting calls for a full Royal Commission, Mr Baillieu said a parliamentary inquiry would allow for investigations in a less formal and legalistic manner but would have power to compel witnesses and to summon documents.
Dr Wayne Chamley from the group Broken Rites had questions for the Premier. Photo: Penny Stephens.
Mr Baillieu said "the pain of victims has gone on for too long."
Victims' group Broken Rites responded promptly to the announcement, with spokesperson Dr Wayne Chamley saying the failure to launch a Royal Commission was disappointing to victims of clergy sexual abuse.
Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott today used an interview on ABC Radio to back calls for the inquiry, which is expected to look at the church's response to allegations of abuse as well as that of police, the Victorian Coroner and the Department of Public Prosecutions.
Today's announcement of an inquiry follows the recommendations of the Cummins report into the protection of Victoria's vulnerable children.
Retired judge Phillip Cummins called for an investigation "into the processes by which religious organisations respond to the criminal abuse of children by religious personnel within their organisations."
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart and Ballarat Bishop Peter Connors have both stated the church will co-operate with any independent child sex abuse inquiry.
TERMS OF REFERENCE
The Family and Community Development Committee is requested to inquire into, consider and report to the Parliament on the processes by which religious and other non-government organisations respond to the criminal abuse of children by personnel within their organisations, including
In undertaking the inquiry, the Committee should be mindful of not encroaching upon the responsibilities of investigatory agencies or the courts in relation to particular cases or prejudicing the conduct or outcome of investigations or court proceedings.
The Committee is requested to report to the Parliament no later than 30 April 2013.