Gloriavale’s Apology

Gloriavale published an unprecedented apology in the Grey Star on Friday 27 May 2022. It reads:

The following is attributable to Gloriavale’s leadership. It is a letter of apology that draws a firm line in the sand between the past and the future.

Much has changed at Gloriavale since 2018 when, at the passing of our founder, the leadership mantle passed to a new leader. During this period we have revised our governance and charted new directions for our community.

We are deeply saddened by the harm members of our community have experienced. We apologise for our role in failing to prevent and protect victims of labour exploitation and sexual abuse.

We are seeking to reach out to those no longer in our community and encouraging them, along with our current members, to speak to us openly if they have experienced harm in any way.

As this letter details we’ve put in place numerous procedures that make it safe for people in our community to share their experiences, and which allow us to take steps to ensure they are loved and protected, with options for remedy.

Working Conditions

We can state categorically that child labour is no longer used in the commercial activities of any of our businesses, and our health and safety policies are now fully aligned with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions on child labour.

Gloriavale is actively engaged with all relevant regulatory authorities to ensure their ongoing oversight.

We have been independently reviewed by multiple government departments and agencies, and we welcome any further evaluations and recommendations. We also welcome any audit of our policies, procedures, practices and workplaces.

Our health and safety policy now does not permit children to enter our commercial business sites and our school’s work transition programme was ended last year so that our teenage children could continue with their senior education. Children at Gloriavale participate in the same type of schooling, involving the same number of hours, as all other New Zealand children.

We recently restructured our commercial business operations to allow parents to be with their children from 3pm.

Like thousands of other rural New Zealand families, we involved our children in the day-to-day practices of farm life with the intention of providing them opportunities to learn alongside us and gain life experience. As parents we are working to understand the distinctions between household chores, farming duties appropriate for children, and commercial work, and we are committed to change with respect to our views and practices.

Our highest ambition is to live peaceably as Christians and to raise our children within an environment of love, safety and security. Gloriavale acts as a social and spiritual support network with strong values of teamwork, family and contribution. In this way we are a multi-facetted organisation much like any large extended family, a rural town, a club, a church or a hapu.

While the land at Gloriavale and many of the assets are held by a charitable trust, the commercial companies are all tax-paying entities and workers pay personal income tax on their share of earnings from the partnership. Individuals do not take welfare benefits, such as National Superannuation, along with many other government benefits they are legitimately entitled to.

The Safety of Children

Despite all our efforts to create a safe haven, we too have been hurt as we discovered the extent of sexual offending that has occurred within our community.

We have put in place extensive measures to ensure such events cannot reoccur. This includes establishing a Child Protection Leads team that answers directly to Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children), led by a senior external adviser appointed by Oranga Tamariki.

Gloriavale has worked with independent counsellors and external agencies to help the victims, and adopted a rigorous child protection policy that encourages all members of the community to report abuse to the police, Oranga Tamariki or the child protection team. An independent social worker nominated by Oranga Tamariki visits once a week.

We make an absolute assurance that sex offenders will not work in our schools or directly with children.

We urge people to reflect that it was our own children and grandchildren who were harmed – more than anything we want to begin the healing process.

The Future

We are developing better support for families within our community, including those who wish to leave. New processes are also underway to support our young people to make their own choice about whether life at Gloriavale is for them, and then fully supporting them in their decision.

Families at Gloriavale are free to contact former Gloriavale family members and anyone who has left our community can visit if they respect our culture.

Our members are updated regularly about Gloriavale’s financial position, with a focus on raising awareness of where and how their money is used. We also have a new community advisory committee that is chaired by a Gloriavale mother.

Gloriavale leavers do liaise with us and, despite public perceptions to the contrary, we do support leavers financially. In the past this has included cash payments, vehicles, tools for tradesmen, study fees and accommodation costs. We recognise that some leavers have not received adequate renumeration and we are correcting this so that our family and loved ones can support themselves in their lives after leaving the Gloriavale.

Hundreds of people have joined or been born into the community since its inception 50 years ago, with current residents totalling around 600. Like any such large community, there will be disagreements between family members and neighbours, and instances where individuals fall short of the law. Our faith is built on forgiveness and the notion that as individuals we are neither perfect nor beyond reproach.

Gloriavale remains the only home that most of those who live here have ever known, so any commercial boycott of Gloriavale’s operations will have a significant impact on hundreds of lives. Gloriavale also indirectly supports the livelihoods of the employees and families of a great many service businesses throughout the West Coast region.

To conclude, we reiterate that we denounce any and all offending that has occurred at Gloriavale. These actions are abhorrent to us, and our hearts go out to those who have suffered. These actions have hurt us as well, as those who have suffered are also ‘us’ – they are our children, our families, our friends and loved ones.

We ask the public for forgiveness and to accept our open commitment and willingness to make significant changes. We hope this letter provides assurance that we are doing everything in our power to ensure the transgressions of the past are never repeated.