Australia orders top inquiry into claims of child abuse at Catholic institutions
THE Australian government broadened inquiries into allegations of institutional child abuse, ordering a rare commission into a scandal that has focused attention on the rich and powerful Catholic Church.
The government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been under increasing pressure to act after explosive allegations of child sex abuse over several decades were exposed across the nation, many involving orders of the Catholic Church.
The Royal Commission, the highest form of investigation in Australia, would look into responses from schools, charities and churches and would not target any organisation, Gillard said.
"I believe in the circumstances that it's appropriate for there to be a national response through a Royal Commission," Gillard said.
The state of New South Wales had earlier set up an inquiry in response to complaints raised by a senior police officer, Peter Fox.
"I can testify from my own experience that the church covers up, silences victims, hinders police investigations, alerts offenders, destroys evidence and moves priests to protect the good name of the church," Fox said in a letter to state Premier Barry O'Farrell.
A separate inquiry into church sex abuse has been launched in the state of Victoria, with one victims' rights group alleging widespread abuse including gang rapes of children, beatings and unreported deaths.
Many children had suffered and had seen adults let them down, Gillard said.
She said she hoped the commission would help ensure that such abuse never happened again.