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Australia launches inquiry into child abuse scandal

The Australian government has appointed a panel to investigate hundreds of child abuse cases within the country's Catholic community that came to light this year. The probe is to cast a wide net over all institutions.

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks at the national press club in Canberra, Australia, Thursday, July 15, 2010. Australia's government bolstered its economic credentials ahead of looming elections by releasing new treasury data Wednesday that showed its reversal on a promised mining tax had not diminished its budget forecasts. The latest figures are even better than the treasury's last budget outlook, released in May, which showed Australia's finances would be back in surplus in the 2012-13 fiscal year despite billions of dollars in government stimulus spending to avoid recession. The improvement, largely due to soaring prices for Australian energy and mineral exports, is expected to come despite Prime Minister Julia Gillard abandoning plans to introduce a 40 percent tax on mining companies' burgeoning profits.(AP Photo/Mark Graham)

Julia Gillard

Australia's prime minister, Julia Gillard (pictured above), announced to reporters at press conference on Monday that she had created a royal commission to respond to the growing child abuse allegations against the Catholic Church in her country.

"The allegations that have come to light recently about child sexual abuse have been heartbreaking," Gillard said. "These are insidious, evil acts to which no child should be subject."

The institutional and civilian responses to the victims were a particular cause for concern, she said.

"There have been too many revelations of adults who have averted their eyes from this evil," she said. "I believe in these circumstances that it's appropriate for there to be a national response through a royal commission."

In September, the Catholic Church in Australia's southern state of Victoria admitted to more than 600 cases of children being abused by pedophile priests since the 1930s.

Prime Minister Gillard emphasized that the commission wanted to "get this right," and so would launch a probe into all institutions that work with children, including those run by the government, other religious groups and non-profit organizations.

"This is I hope will help with healing, but I specifically hope that its recommendations will help us unsure that this never ever happens again," said Gillard.

Gillard's announcement on Monday came after calls from police and politicians for the government to take action. The royal commission appointed to address the issue has so far garnered bi-partisan support.

kms/mz (dpa, AFP)