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Australia sex abuse inquiry begins

The head of an Australia-wide commission looking into allegations of child sex abuse in state and religious institutions as well as community groups has said more than 5,000 victims are likely to give evidence of their harrowing experiences.

Justice Pete McClellan chairs a bench of six commissioners who sat for the first time on Wednesday to begin a government-commissioned inquiry known in Australia as a Royal Commission. Witnesses can be compelled to testify and risk imprisonment for lying.

He said the inquiry is unlikely to achieve its deadline set by the government of late 2015 because so many people want to give evidence.

The government has offered free legal advice to people who want to make submissions to the inquiry before public hearings begin after September.

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