Royal commission is a victory for victims and all who support justice

THIS journalist has covered a few dead trees with ink in criticising politicians for tardy and inadequate responses to clergy sex abuse of children.

So it is with real pleasure that I, and surely most Australians, congratulate the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and her cabinet for calling a royal commission into institutional responses to child abuse.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, who some have cruelly claimed takes his orders directly from Cardinal George Pell, also deserves credit for offering the bipartisan support needed to smooth its path.

The details, including the terms of reference, have yet to emerge, but Gillard's announcement of the scope it will cover - all religions, state care, not-for-profit organisations, schools, child welfare agencies and police - is highly encouraging.

It is also encouraging that the Prime Minister suggested it would take as long as it needed. In Ireland, the process took nine years, but was deeply cathartic and gave the Catholic Church a metaphorical clean slate. South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission had a similar role.

The argument by Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, on the weekend that the Catholic Church was no worse than other organisations and that calls were motivated by anti-Catholic prejudice were clearly self-serving, and it is appropriate that they fell on deaf ears.

As the Victorian inquiry has been told, nine out of 10 cases of clergy sexual abuse involves Catholic priests or brothers. And the response of the Catholic hierarchy was the most malign: obstructing police, shuffling paedophile priests, silencing victims and dissuading them from going to police. But victims of sexual abuse in other institutions, whether state orphanages or Jewish schools, must also have the opportunity to tell their stories.

It is uncertain where this leaves the Victorian parliamentary inquiry and the newly announced NSW inquiry about abuse in the Hunter Valley.

But it is the result that victims, their supporters, most of the Catholic faithful, and the wider Australian community have been seeking.

This story Royal commission is a victory for victims and all who support justice first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.