6 Oct 2020

Gloriavale leavers petition government, plan to protest

6:08 pm on 6 October 2020

There are growing calls for a wide-ranging government inquiry into the West Coast Christian community Gloriavale.

Hopeful Christian (pictured far right) with other members of the Gloriavale Community at an event of the West Coast.

A 2004 file photo of Gloriavale members Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library

The Gloriavale Leavers' Support Trust has started a petition this week urging the government to take action.

They're also protesting outside The Press' Leaders Debate in Christchurch tonight.

They say they are growing frustrated by the lack of action from any government agency in response to claims from those who have lived inside.

Abuse, unsafe work practices, poor education, oppression and lack of health services are all issues that have been raised.

Last month Charities Services decided not to carry out a second investigation into Gloriavale after leavers raised concerns.

After those inside complained about working conditions the Labour Inspectorate visited the community but last week said it couldn't take action as people working at Gloriavale were deemed volunteers so didn't fit under the Employment Relations Act.

But Gloriavale Leavers Support Trust spokeswoman Liz Gregory said they were not giving up.

"It's incredibly frustrating because there is enough information there and evidence there to show that something is very wrong.

"They go in and have a look around, talk to a couple people then come out and say 'oh nothing to see here', and that actually gives Gloriavale the power it wants which is to control the narrative."

The trust has started a petition calling for the government to take action and Gregory said they needed to learn from previous investigations.

"They actually need to chat to people who have left the community prior to even investigating things they need to find out the best way to get information.

"You don't just show up to Gloriavale, set up your table and invite people to come and talk to you, everyone is looking at each other and they're informing on each other."

David Ready, who left in 2017 due to abuse within the community, said someone needed to take responsibility.

"Gloriavale needs to be held accountable for its sins. They've destroyed lives, destroyed families, lied, harassed and abused people and they need to pay for it.

"They will think they're being persecuted for their faith but they're not, the truth is no one cares about what they believe - the problem is how they're treating people," Ready said.

Ready is separated from family members who remain inside the community - including his mother.

He said there would always be people who want to live in an arrangement like Gloriavale - but an inquiry was needed to make sure at least people had a better quality of life.

"They would love it even more if it was done correctly, if it was done without abuse, without bullying and without harassment, like wouldn't that make it better."

When asked at the Newshub Leaders' Debate if they would hold an inquiry into Gloriavale if elected, Collins said yes and Ardern said no.

There are currently matters before the courts in relation to a member being charged with indecent acts.

Workplace Relations Minister Andrew Little said WorkSafe continued to proactively assess how Gloriavale was managing its health and safety obligations.

But the former members protesting outside tonight's leaders' debate in Christchurch hope the next government will take their concerns seriously.

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