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End is nigh for Gloriavale

Among my many favourite comedy skits, one came to mind this week. The skit is tucked into the Secret Policeman’s Other Ball – a charity spoof performance by the very best of British comedy from the early 1980s.

It sprang to mind as I followed details of a trial in Greymouth District Court this. The skit is called … ‘The End [Is Nigh]’. It is a highly farcical jab at those who would believe that one day, the world as we know it will come to an apocalyptic end.

If recent court rulings in Greytown are any indication, the end may well be nigh for the Gloriavale community nestled in Haupiri on the West Coast. The will be no apocalypse, thankfully, so all 600 or so members of the Christian group should survive, but it appears the wheels are slowly but surely coming off, and the inevitable crash and burn has started to unfold.

Gloriavale’s spiritual leader was named as the man charged with sexual offending against girls over more than 20 years. Details of Howard Temple’s first court appearance last month were suppressed, but the suppression order has now lapsed. More charges were added when he appeared in court this week. In total, Temple faces 14 charges of indecent assault and 13 charges of doing an indecent act.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Temple pleaded not guilty to all charges and was released on bail until October 31. He has elected a judge-alone trial. This may keep the details of the case quiet for a while, but ultimately, the truth will come out. And it won’t be pretty.

The girls were aged between nine and 20 at the time of the alleged offending, between 1997 and 2022. According to court documents, 21 of the charges were representative, meaning multiple offences of the same type were alleged to have been committed in similar circumstances.

Temple, 83, is known inside Gloriavale as the shepherd, the community’s spiritual leader. Temple took the shepherd’s role when the commune’s controversial leader and convicted sex offender, Hopeful Christian, died in 2018.

A 2020 police investigation, in partnership with Oranga Tamariki, identified at least 60 people involved in “harmful sexual behaviour” at Gloriavale. At subsequent hearings, Temple’s testimony provided new insight into the inner workings of the fundamentalist Christian community.

Somewhat shockingly, it had previously responded to allegations of abuse internally through a faith-based process and its own investigations. That this approach was thought sufficient beggars belief.

There were encouraging developments for those determined to tell the truth about Gloriavale.

The employment court ruled last week in favour of six former members who argued that they lived in servitude while working on the commune’s domestic staff.

The court found that the six women were employees and not volunteers after being primed for the work and taught from birth to submit to male leadership in all aspects of their lives. One former member told the court she worked an average of 90 hours a week during her teenage years.

Are any of us surprised? We shouldn’t be.

In the comedy skit, those waiting for the end agree to come back the next, for the world will surely end then. For Gloriavale, tomorrow is definitely coming.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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