Free legal advice for abuse inquiry

Anyone thinking about speaking to the royal commission into child sex abuse can now get free legal advice.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on Tuesday launched knowmore, a free national legal advice line for people interested in providing information to the commission.

Mr Dreyfus said the government will spend $18 million over four years on the service as part of a $62 million fund for legal advice related to the commission.

“A great deal of work has already gone into the setting up of this legal advisory service and it’s now up and running,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Run by the National Association of Community Legal Centres, it received 18 phone calls in its first three days last week.

Mr Dreyfus said the service could offer advice on issues like witness and informant protections, compensation, and “the implications of existing confidentiality agreements”.

Carolyn Bond of Community Law Australia welcomed the service, saying it was important to support those dealing with the “sensitive and troubling issue” of child sexual abuse.

The provision of “culturally safe services” might also help to break down the barriers that could prevent people from speaking up, she said.

More than 5000 people are expected to share their stories with the commission, which began in Melbourne in April.

Its chairman, Justice Peter McClellan, has previously said the inquiry is unlikely to meet its final deadline of late 2015.