A national inquiry into sexual abuse in religious institutions is needed, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) says.
The ALA says the Victorian government's parliamentary inquiry into abuse, announced on Tuesday, will be "manifestly inadequate" as it will miss widespread cases of abuse across the rest of Australia.
A spokesman for the alliance's NSW branch, Andrew Morrison SC, said many cases in the state had not been properly investigated.
Dr Morrison singled out the Catholic Church, saying while many other religious institutions also had problems, the church was infamous for failing to comply with legal obligations to report abuse by priests under the Crimes Act.
"When complaints are made about priests or teachers in parochial schools, the Catholic Church's response has all too frequently been to move the alleged perpetrator on," he said in a statement on Thursday.
"Frequently, it is found that further abuse is then committed in other places.
"I have seen convincing and unchallenged evidence of such conduct in a considerable number of cases involving the Catholic Church and the devastating affect this has had on people's lives."
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu says the state's parliamentary inquiry will be properly resourced with full powers to do its job, but victims' groups have criticised the government, saying the investigation won't go far enough and a royal commission is needed.
Dr Morrison said the church in Australia was able to shirk responsibility for the conduct of its clergy, unlike in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, where the church was liable for priests' actions.
He said a private members bill designed to hold the church in Australia more accountable would appear before the NSW Legislative Council later this year.
Melbourne's Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart has denied the church covered up sexual abuse by clergy and says it will co-operate fully with the inquiry.