Public hearings in the city are expected to go for two weeks and will focus on the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse, as well as potential paedophile networks.
It will look at the past and present systems, policies and practices within the Newcastle diocese for responding to allegations of child sexual abuse.
|Peter Rushton died in 2007 without ever being convicted|
This morning, abuse survivor Paul Gray told the commission Rushton was his godfather and he was raped by the priest "on a weekly or fortnightly basis" for years.
"He wasn't just a priest, he was a big thing in my life," Mr Gray said.
"When I was about 10 years old, Father Peter Rushton anally raped me in his bedroom - that was the first instance that Father Rushton sexually assaulted me.
"Subsequently, between the ages of 10 and 14, I was sexually abused by Father Rushton on a weekly or fortnightly basis.
"On many of these occasions, Father Peter would cut my back with a small knife and smear my blood on my back - that was symbolic of the blood of Christ - as he continued to anally rape me."
Victim describes being dragged from bushes by rapists
Mr Gray said he continued to suffer the effects of a mental breakdown, which he blamed on the abuse he suffered.
"Father Peter took me to the church camp where there were about five men, and at least one other boy," Mr Gray said.
"I recall the men saying, 'we're going to get you', and from my previous experience I knew this meant that they were going to sexually abuse me.
"I was chased by two men to the edge of the cliff and I hid in the bushes.
"After a while they dragged me from the bushes and I was raped by the two men, and while I was being raped I could hear another boy screaming."
The Anglican diocese said it had provided more than $5 million in redress to abuse victims.
But Mr Gray said dividing that up between 250 victims is $20,000 each.
"I ask you: is $20,000 more than it costs a victim's family if they are problem gambler? Is $20,000 enough if the victim is an alcoholic, is $20,000 enough if the victim is a drug addict, is $20,000 enough if the victim is violent?
"What's the real cost to families, what's the real cost to society? What's the cost of losing your friend, your parent, your partner, your sibling or your child to suicide because of sexual abuse - now tell me the real cost."
'I've had six jail sentences totalling 18 years'
Another survivor, Phillip D'Ammond, was sent to St Albans in the 1970s after being made a ward of the state.
Mr D'Ammond said Brown offered to take him for the school holidays, and groomed him by telling him he had the "best skin he'd ever seen".
"He had me hook, line and sinker from the beginning," Mr D'Ammond said.
He told the commission the effects of the abuse have lasted decades. "I feel crushed that I've hurt so many people as a result of the abuse," he said.
"Over the years I've had six jail sentences, totalling 18 years. "I have been involved in acts of violence, including armed robbery, multiple assaults, malicious wounding.
"I was harbouring a lot of pent-up anger towards Jimmy, and I was misdirecting it at others. "I did not know that I had any rights or that I could say no.
"I felt dirty and ashamed, and I worried that no one would believe me because it was my word against his."
Survivor calls for research into paedophilia
Mr D'Ammond told the public hearings the $210,000 he received from the church as redress only hindered his ability to get over the abuse.
"If a normal person receives the lump sum that I got, they would have gone ahead in life," he said.
"All that did to me was open up the heroin habit again - I'd been clean for four years before I got that settlement.
"All of a sudden I've got a bank full of money, and no financial advice, no advice what I should do - there it is, see ya later."
Mr D'Ammond made several recommendations to the royal commission.
"For me personally, the most important recommendation is for medical or scientific research to be conducted into the cause of paedophilia," he said.
"We need to educate kids on what to look out for and for their parents to know what to look out for — we need awareness on how paedophiles work.
"The church needs to learn to live by the laws of the land, and not make their own laws - they seem to make it up as they go.
"They need to improve the ways survivors access mental health services."
They also need financial counselling after receiving a settlement. It should be part of the settlement.
Abuse claims raised after Rushton died in 2007
Newcastle's Anglican Christ Church Cathedral (ABC News: Dan Cox)
Earlier, the commission heard Rushton worked across the diocese from 1963, but allegations of sexual abuse involving him only came to light after his death in 2007.
"It is expected that former archdeacon Colvin Ford will tell the royal commission that he perceived that Rushton was protected by the gang of three," counsel assisting the commission, Ms Sharp, said.
"Being dean Graeme Lawrence, archdeacon Bruce Hoare and diocesan registrar of the time Peter Mitchell."
Ms Sharp told the commission another victim, called CKH, will give evidence of an incident he alleges happened in Narrandera in 1984 when he was 19 years old.
"After a Riverina diocesan clergy function, he alleges that he was in a motel room with Lawrence, Hoare and Sturt, and a 17-year-old boy who was so drunk that he had passed," she said.
"CKH alleges that he had group sex with Lawrence and Hoare, and that Sturt looked on and stroked the drunk boy on his stomach."
Ongoing threats and intimidation, commission will hear
Protesters at Newcastle courthouse for the first day of the child sexual abuse royal commission hearings. (ABC News: Mazoe Ford)
Ms Sharp told the commission Michael Elliott has been the director of professional standards for the diocese since 2009.
"It is anticipated that he will say he felt there was a high level of interference in his professional standards work by the diocesan hierarchy, and that he has been isolated and bullied," Ms Sharp said.
"He will say that he has been the subject of ongoing threats and intimidation, including his vehicle being repeatedly vandalised ... and his dog going missing.
"Mr Elliott is expected to tell the royal commission of his belief that the diocese is harbouring a large number of active offenders with little or no accountability in place."
There are 31 witnesses during the case study, including former lord mayor John McNaughton, as well as former bishops Roger Herft, Alfred Holland, and Brian Farran.