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Australia orders federal child sex abuse inquiry

SYDNEY — Australia’s prime minister ordered a federal inquiry Monday into allegations of child sex abuse in state and religious institutions and community groups following a string of sexual abuse accusations against priests and allegations of a Catholic Church coverup.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard had faced pressure to order a wide-ranging investigation after the New South Wales state premier last week ordered an inquiry into allegations of a sexual abuse coverup by Catholic priests in the Hunter Valley region north of Sydney.

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Victorian officials are also investigating a separate series of priest sex abuse allegations in their state.

‘‘Any instance of child abuse is a vile and evil thing. Australians know that,’’ Gillard told reporters in Canberra.

‘‘Australians know, from the revelations that they’ve read in recent weeks, that too many children have suffered child abuse but have also seen other adults let them down.

“They’ve not only had their trust betrayed by the abuser, but other adults who could have acted to assist them have failed to do so.’’

The investigation will target religious and state institutions, schools and community groups such as sporting clubs.

It will also look into police responses to abuse allegations and is expected to take several years to complete.

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