Australia to extend child sex inquiry by two years

SYDNEY (AFP) - The Australian government said Tuesday it plans to extend an explosive inquiry into child sex abuse by two years to deal with the thousands of victims who have come forward.

Australia opened the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in April 2013, after more than a decade of pressure to investigate allegations of paedophilia in religious organisations, schools and state care.

Attorney-General George Brandis said the government had asked the governor-general to extend the historic inquiry by two years at a cost of an additional A$126 million (S$146.64 million).

The extra time and funding is expected to allow for 30 additional public hearings, 3,000 more private sessions for survivors and more research reports.

"All of this will build a much fuller and more complete picture of the scourge of institutional child abuse," Mr Brandis said.

"Most importantly, it will give those who need to tell their stories the opportunity to do so."

The commission's hearings are covering harrowing allegations of child abuse involving places of worship, orphanages, community groups and schools dating back decades.

From the start, commission chair Justice Peter McClellan has said that it was unlikely all work could be completed within the initial deadline of June 2015.

In June this year the commission said it needed two more years to complete its mission, part of which is to enable those affected by child sex abuse to share their experiences.

It said a two-year extension "will enable the Royal Commission to offer an additional 3,000 private sessions, bringing the total number to 7,000".

"This will enable us to hear from more of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged and from those survivors who have never disclosed their abuse to anyone," it said.

Mr Brandis said the extension would bring the total cost of the inquiry to the government to A$500 million and should be completed by Dec 15, 2017.