Gloriavale employment court case: Father feared for his daughters’ safety in community

John Ready

Former member John Ready says he felt he had no control over his children’s lives once they were born into the community.
Photos: RNZ / Tim Brown

A former member of the Gloriavale Christian community has told a court his daughter suffered third-degree burns after having a seizure at work in the kitchen.

Six women, including the man’s sister, are arguing in the Employment Court in Christchurch that they were employees, not volunteers, during their time in Gloriavale.

Former member John Ready said while his epileptic daughter was working with boiling water in the kitchen, she had a seizure and suffered serious burns – one of which went unnoticed for six hours.

“Her hand was attended to, but she had a third-degree burn on her shoulder… No one was aware of it, not even my daughter was aware of it until that evening,” Ready said.

The community would probably last longer without the leadership than it would without the single women, Ready said.

He questioned the safety of the community for his eight daughters and two sons.

“Sadly, the main focus of the young women in the community is to work and produce babies. Their plight is a serious concern. I had serious concerns for our children, particularly the girls, should they have stayed in Gloriavale.”

Women were criticized for having children slowly, Ready said.

“[The women] they were getting flack, for the lack of a better word. And a sort of accusation of ‘are you practicing birth control?’, that was a thing. You did have to have babies at the accepted rate.”

Some of the more vulnerable girls also entered into agreements with men in the leadership group to try to prevent them from being criticized, Ready said.

His concerns were only deepened for his daughter.

“I feared for her future in the community as it is not set up to cater for people with high needs. The culture at Gloriavale did not allow for her condition,” Ready said.

He felt he had no control over his children’s lives once they were born into the community, he said.

Both he and his eldest daughter began to question the Gloriavale leadership.

His daughter was asked to leave at 17, after close to two years of discipline, Ready said.

“It was bad. Her hair was starting to fall out. She was losing her hair from all the stress,” he said.

“And I basically got the impression [the leadership] were sick and tired of dealing with her, she was just a hassle.”

Ready was meant to drop his daughter at Greymouth train station so she could travel to Christchurch alone but instead, he dropped her at his aunt’s house in Timaru.

Shortly afterwards, he found himself being put into isolation for days at a time and was repeatedly asked by the leaders if he was ready to submit to them, he said.

“I was forced by the Shepherds [leaders] out of the community just prior to Christmas 2017. At this point, I was trying to convey that I hadn’t left. I was still wearing my Gloriavale uniform to show that I had not left, but I had been forced out,” he said.

Gloriavale’s leaders strongly denied the claims and said the women were volunteers, not employees.

Their defense is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

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