Australia child abuse inquiry to focus on entertainment industry

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Sydney (AFP) - A wide-ranging Australian inquiry into child sex abuse on Monday said it plans to put the spotlight on the entertainment industry, urging anyone who has suffered to come forward.

It follows revelations of abuse by a number of high-profile entertainers across the world, including Australian Rolf Harris who is in jail in Britain for a string of sex assaults against girls.

Philip Reed, head of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, said he wants to hear from anyone who has experienced, or has information about, abuse in the industry.

Institutions under the spotlight include television networks, production companies, dance, drama and performing arts schools, casting agencies or any other company involved in entertainment.

"Anyone thinking of coming forward should be rest assured that the confidentiality of their information will be protected," Reed said, adding that advertisements would be run in Sydney and Melbourne newspapers and industry publications.

A spokeswoman said entertainment was being targeted due to the commission being aware of historical allegations of abuse in the industry.

The government-backed commission was called after a decade of pressure to investigate numerous allegations of paedophilia in Australia, and has so far heard harrowing claims of child abuse involving places of worship, orphanages, community groups and schools. Its terms of reference allow it to examine any institution.

Most recently it heard allegations this month that Vatican finance chief George Pell, formerly Australia's top Catholic official, tried to bribe an abuse victim to keep him quiet.

Pell denied the claims but was summoned to give evidence in person to the inquiry when it next meets, at a date to be determined.

No start date was given for when the inquiry would begin to look into the entertainment industry.

Harris is one of the highest-profile people to be prosecuted in Britain as part of Operation Yewtree, which was set up in the wake of revelations that late TV presenter Jimmy Savile was a prolific abuser.

The 85-year-old television star, artist and songwriter was jailed for five years and nine months in July last year after being found guilty of indecently assaulting four victims between 1969 and 1986.

He sparked further outrage Sunday when a British newspaper reported that he was writing a song about money-grabbing accusers.

In Australia Robert Hughes, the popular former star of hit Australian TV series "Hey Dad", was jailed for at least six years in 2014 on 10 charges of sexual and indecent assault against girls dating back to the 1980s.

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