Greymouth Star – Gloriavale Speaks Up

Greymouth Star – Gloriavale Speaks Up

A busload of Gloriavale Christian Community residents made a show of unity outside the Christchurch Courthouse yesterday to support the community’s shepherds, or leaders, as six ex-residents began another case in the Employment Court.

Gloriavale resident Priscilla Steadfast told Newshub it was all about ensuring their side of the story was heard.

“We just want to voice what we believe, and how we feel and not have other people voice our voice for us”, she said.

They were there to listen to a case all about the working conditions and life at Gloriavale, painted by current residents as enjoyable and normal.

Another resident. Charity Christian said she loved Gloriavale and did not mind working hard.  “That’s life, I love working,” she said.

Gloriavale leader Peter Righteous told Newshub residents had come to support the leaders and meet Gloriavale’s lawyers in person.  He said the case was an “important issue”, and they didn’t want to be seen as ignoring it.”.

Gloriavale denies the allegations of abuse and exploitation – and this time will be calling its own witnesses who will claim former residents have “waged a campaign” against the community.

Gloriavale lawyer Philip Skelton QC said the claims made were disputed by current members.

“They will say that the plaintiffs’ evidence has been systemically cherry-picked and exaggerated to present the darkest possible image of Gloriavale.”

However, a former member says residents there are “brainwashed” from a young age, with women expected to cook, clean and sew for long hours without taking breaks.

The Employment court case argues that women there are employees, not volunteers as the leadership has claimed.

The reality of working life for women was put bluntly by a lawyer for the six women who are taking the case, Brian Henry.

“This proceeding was aptly described by the second defence counsel as dark, and the truth is it is dark,” he said. He went on to describe the women’s working conditions as “scandalous”, saying women in Gloriavale were totally subjected to the rule of men.

Women had no choice but to cook, clean or sew on a commercial scale for the 600 residents from a young age.

“They were under the control of the shepherds and had no freedom,” Mr Henry said.

Former resident and one of the six taking the case against the leaders is Serenity Pilgrim. She described working from the age of seven, and the role of women in the community.

“Women are supposed to cook, clean and do washing and do household things. And have kids. I would definitely call it brainwashing, because right from day one you grow up knowing you don’t have the option of even being able to think about what you want to do.” Miss Pilgrim said she worked such long hours she often didn’t have time to eat.

Overseeing shepherd Howard Temple will give evidence in the case. “I would rather not comment now,” he told Newshub.

Resident Charity Christian had a glowing appraisal of the leaders at Gloriavale saying they’re the most caring people that I have ever met. But that claim is strongly rejected by the former residents taking the case, who believe the only purpose while inside was to serve them and obey.