Historic child abuse inquiry opens in Australia
By Amy Coopes
Published September 15, 2013
SYDNEY (AFP) – An Australian inquiry into church and institutional child abuse began public hearings Monday, with warnings that widespread and "shocking" allegations would be heard against places of worship, orphanages, community groups and schools.
Justice Peter McClellan opened the hearings in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, announced by the government last November, saying that thousands of people had so far come forward.
"It is now well known that the sexual abuse of children has been widespread in the Australian community, however the full range of institutions in which it has occurred is not generally understood," McClellan said in an address....
The inquiry was established by former prime minister Julia Gillard in response to a series of child sex abuse scandals involving paedophile priests, though she insisted the probe would be much broader than the Catholic Church....
McClellan said a hotline set up for survivors of abuse to contact the commission had so far received 4,301 relevant calls....
the first of five public sessions to be held before the end of the year, will examine the "case study" of convicted paedophile Steven Larkins, who headed an Aboriginal children's charity and was also a Scout leader.
Larkins pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two boys -- aged 11 and 12 -- in separate incidents in 1992 and 1997, and is currently in jail for child pornography offences and forging a declaration of his fitness to work with juveniles.