Australian children are less likely to be sexually abused in schools, church groups and elsewhere than before the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Allegations of Sexual Abuse, a former victim and commission witness says.
Damian De Marco, a former Marist Brothers Canberra student who testified about abuse and abuse cover-ups in the ACT last June, fears this may only be temporary however.
"One of the good things about the commission (hearings) is awareness of the problem is now so high and people are very watchful," he said.
"They (people in authority) are not sceptical when complainants come forward. Children are safer - for now.
"But that's not happening worldwide and, secondly, this (interest and concern) will die down some day. There is no guarantee the state of heightened awareness will be permanent."
Mr De Marco said the only way to break the global cycle of abuse was for the church to address the root causes from the Vatican down.
These included mandatory celibacy, discrimination against women in the leadership of the church, a culture of secrecy and obedience and the cult of clericalism in which clergy were "almost more than human".
"There is a massive power imbalance between a child and a priest or brother," he said. "To accuse a priest is a very big deal."
Mr De Marco, named the ACT's "local hero" for 2015 for speaking out, decided to reveal his identity just days before taking the stand on June 10, 2014.
"It was a big decision," he said. "I realised, based on previous experience with the church, what I had to say would be hotly contested by people desperate to deny any concealment of abuse, their inappropriate responses [to allegations] and their fundamental lack of concern for those in their care."
Lawyers acting for the church responded forcefully to Mr De Marco's testimony, citing confidential reports on past drug use that had been supplied during his compensation claim and questioning his motives.
Mr De Marco remains incredulous at the way complaints against serial paedophiles at the college had been handled. No action was taken to curtail Brother Kostka Chute's contact with Marist students until after ACT government authorities were called in, despite his history of abuse dating back to the early 1960s.
"What happened [in Canberra] was straight from the Vatican play book," he said. "It is the response still used in most places around the world today."
The real achievement of the commission has been to focus public attention on the risk of child abuse by investigating, exposing and creating an understanding of cases and how they occur.
"But the commission doesn't have the power to impose mandatory changes on the church leadership in Rome," he said.
"The Vatican considers itself a state-within-a-state and subject to Canonical law, not the law of the land. Before mandatory reporting in Australia the church could investigate itself on the basis unless a complainant went to the police, which many were reluctant to do out of a sense of shame, it was "respecting the victim".
Geoffrey Robertson QC, the former Hypotheticals host and now a leading civil rights lawyer, has cited Vatican protocols under which witnesses are sworn to secrecy on threat of excommunication and accusers investigated to determine whether they are "worthy of credence or, on the other hand, capable of lying, slander or perjury".
"The complainant is as much on trial as the alleged perpetrator," Mr De Marco said.