Surge in child abuse reports

Angela Pownall

A national public inquiry will return to Perth for the seventh time next month to hear about child sex abuse in Australian institutions as demand from abuse victims to tell their stories snowballs.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held private hearings in Perth last week and plans to return early next year.

Justice Paul McClellan, commission chairman, has revealed the massive scale of the abuse allegations being reported to the inquiry a year after it was set up by the Federal Government.

It comes as Victoria's child abuse parliamentary inquiry, which has heard from 450 victims, tabled its report yesterday and called for legal changes, including making it a crime to conceal or fail to report child abuse offences.

Inquiry chairwoman Georgie Crozier said thousands of children and their families had suffered "unimaginable harm" and that organisations, the major culprits being the Catholic Church and the Salvation Army, had compounded their behaviour with a culture of denial.

Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart said yesterday it was the worst betrayal of trust in his lifetime. "I fully acknowledge that leaders in the Church made mistakes - these are indefensible," he said.

Victims called for immediate action on the inquiry's recommendations, which included removing the statute of limitations for child abuse civil claims and removing time limits for assistance requests from victims.

The royal commission has heard from 742 people in private sessions, while a further 524 people are waiting for a private hearing date.

About 1300 people are waiting for their cases to be assessed after contacting the commission and about half of them are expected to tell their story in a private hearing.

If you are in emotional distress, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.