Former Gloriavale members want stories heard to drive change

Source: 1News

A former Gloriavale resident says ex-members have been taking their stories to court because they want them heard and legally acknowledged.

Lilia Tarawa, author of book Daughter of Gloriavale who went viral for a TEDx Talk on the West Coast commune, told Breakfast on Thursday former members want to see changes there.

The Employment Court is currently considering whether those living at Gloriavale are employees or volunteers.

Three former residents are challenging a Labour Inspectorate ruling that found they are volunteers, and were therefore not entitled to pay or employment rights.

READ MORE: Gloriavale lawyer says 'stark choice' but members still choose lifestyle

Documents signed by members suggest they did not intend to enter into an employment relationship at the commune, which is the reason why the inspectorate refused to investigate alleged long working hours.

Tarawa said former members want to see those at the commune have basic rights and better working conditions, and "no child labour".

Tarawa, who left Gloriavale at 18 with her family, said people do not have choices at the commune because they are living in an environment with "such a high amount of control" on thoughts and information.

"The parents don't have autonomy over making decisions for their own children. Women don't have autonomy over their own bodies or who you're going to marry. So there's arranged marriages. This is all what we would consider being forced to do something and yet somehow Gloriavale is still functional and operational today.

"Gloriavale people have no options. It's either this way or that way. It's a choice between your freedom or your family, your freedom or you home, your freedom or your life. So that's the situation they're dealing with on a constant, daily basis."

READ MORE: Former Gloriavale member calls it a 'brutal control regime'

Tarawa said it was "horrendous" successive governments are allowing Gloriavale to exist in this way.

"There's so many of us coming forward and telling our stories and saying, 'I wasn’t a volunteer. I was an employee. I was abused. I was living under coercive control.'"

She feels the New Zealand Government is ignoring this.

"I feel like that is just a massive failure on the part of the Government to protect their citizens.

"I really think that the Government is responsible for that. Gloriavale people are citizens and I do feel like the people of New Zealand like to think of Gloriavale as being something else. But Gloriavale is a part of New Zealand and the people there deserve to enjoy the freedoms you and I already enjoy in our lives today.

"But the Government has looked at it and gone we can't interfere because it looks OK on the outside and they need 'really good evidence' to change the way things are being done at Gloriavale, which is what we're fighting for in courts now."