A 10-year international study has revealed that thousands of Australians are involved in the child sex industry. The report shows an alarming growth in pedophilia, child pornography and overseas child sex tours by Australian men.

The study by the charity Child Wise paints a bleak picture for the many children caught up in the sex trade in Australia and elsewhere, notably in Asia. The report claims that trafficking in child prostitutes has risen in recent years and says many youngsters end up in Australia after being sold for sex in countries such as Cambodia.

The survey says a symptom of this brutal trade is the explosion in child pornography on the Internet.

The study took a decade to complete and relies heavily on anecdotal evidence from those trapped in Australia's child sex trade. It shows that a growing number of homeless children here work as prostitutes to survive and to sustain drug addictions.

The author of the report, Bernadette McMenamin says despite recent efforts to clampdown on pedophiles in Australia, many child abusers simply go elsewhere to carry out their activities. "We estimate that there are hundreds if not thousands of Australians traveling overseas to sexually abuse children," she says. "Some of them are sex tourists who are pretty indiscriminate in who they have sex with but they are certainly going overseas on sex tours. There are others who are pedophiles who are being driven - in a sense - overseas because they are being flushed out of the schools and institutions in Australia and they see children accessible and vulnerable overseas."

The Child Sex Trade Report makes 29 recommendations to the Australian government on improving investigations of child sex offenses and helping the children involved. It also calls for re-establishing a special Federal Police unit to investigate Australians carrying out sex crimes abroad.

A police spokesman says the department's commitment to catching pedophiles remains high and that greater cooperation among international agencies is making a difference.

Child Wise, however, doesn't see it that way. The group says law enforcement efforts only scratch the surface of Australia's multi-million dollar child sex trade, leaving the perpetrators at liberty and their victims facing more misery.