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Child abuse survivors who shared their stories as part of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse today have been applauded by a leading lawyer who regularly acts in abuse cases.

Slater and Gordon National Practice Group Leader Barrie Woollacott said the public hearing, held in Sydney, was a landmark occasion that many people who had been abused while in care as children would be watching closely.

“This royal commission is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to expose the horrendous abuse that some children have been forced to live with and, importantly, an opportunity to understand the systems that allowed it to happen,” Mr Woollacott said.

“I applaud the brave abuse survivors who shared their stories today and the many others who have given evidence over recent months.

“I have worked with child abuse survivors for more than 15 years and understand from them how incredibly difficult it can be to have their stories told publicly – for some secrecy can become a way of life, while others stop speaking out because no one is listening.

“Many clients have told me that ultimately what they want is to be heard and acknowledged, and to know that steps are being taken to stop their experiences being repeated.

“The revelations that will emerge from these public hearings may seem shocking, but sadly for abuse survivors they are the memories and realities they live with every day and cannot escape."

“The abuse of children while in the care of institutions that were meant to protect them is a serious issue, which can only be addressed by greater awareness and accountability.

“This royal commission, and in particular the public hearings that provide an insight into its work, represents a significant step towards exposing and addressing these issues.”

Mr Woollacott said he wished the commissioners well with their work and congratulated them on their progress so far.

“For this commission to be truly effective it will need to look into the long-standing legal protections that are enjoyed by institutions such as the Catholic Church; one such protection being that a Catholic archbishop can’t be held accountable for the actions of their predecessor.

“The commission will also need to examine issues around the limitations periods that operate in the various states, which can make it difficult for people to seek civil legal recourse.”