5000 expected to tell their story of child sexual abuse

AT least 5000 people are ready to tell their story at a Royal Commission into the responses of institutions such as churches regarding child sexual abuse.

The commission has held its first sitting in the Victorian Country Court in Melbourne.

It will look at religious organisations, state care providers, not-for-profit bodies as well as child service agencies.

Commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan said the commission will aim to right the wrongs of the past.

"Although a painful process, if a community is to move forward, it must come to understand where wrongs have occurred and so far as possible, right those wrongs," he said.

"It must develop principles which when implemented through legislation and changes in the culture and management practices of institutions and the behaviour of individuals, will ensure a better future for subsequent generations."

The ABC reports that Justice Peter McClellan says hat 5,000 people will speak to the commission, each needing at least an hour to tell their story.

How to contact the commission

Call 1800 099 340 between the hours of 8am and 8pm

Write to GPO box 5283, Sydney NSW, 2001



 Those listening to the individual accounts will be appropriately trained, and the interviews will likely be conducted in a neutral location such as hotel rooms.

"Private sessions will be structured to provide assistance to people in giving their accounts, and arrangements will be made to refer those who may be in need to appropriate counselling services," he said.

Public hearings are not expected to start for several months and the inquiry could span years.

PM says commission an important moral moment for nation

Prime Minister Julia Gillard told ABC NewsRadio this morning that the commission is "an important moral moment for our nation".

"I  want this to be a moment of healing, for us to say to them as a nation 'we hear you, you're valued and you're believed' because for too long, so many of these survivors have just run in to closed doors and closed minds," she said.

"And second, I want the royal commission to provide for us recommendations about the future.

"We've let children down in the past as a country - we need to learn what we can do as a nation to better protect our children in the future."

"These hearings will mark the start of a healing process for survivors and their families,'' Ms Gillard said in a statement released today.

The government announced counsel assisting the Royal Commission will be Gail Furness SC and Victorian barrister Melinda Richards.

Govt announces free national legal service for victims

The Government also announced the establishment of a free national legal advisory service for people engaging or wishing to engage with the Royal Commission.

The free legal advisory service will provide people with legal and procedural advice on important issues such as preparing submissions to the Royal Commission.

The service will be available via a free telephone service nationwide. Face-to-face services will also be offered in selected locations.

Contact details for the new service will be advertised nationally in coming weeks.

Assistance will include advice on the implications of existing confidentiality agreements.

The service will also provide:

  • Advice on legal options in relation to abuse, outside the Royal Commission, including alternate dispute resolution
  • Civil law or criminal law options
  • Face to face advice services at public hearings (similar to a duty lawyer)
  • Advice and referral for individuals who require legal representation.

For more information on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse call 1800 099 340 or www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au