Work continues over Gloriavale
A 12-year-old boy at Gloriavale broke his arm by reaching into a large washing machine – an incident revealed in documents from the government agencies monitoring the community.
The documents were released under the Official Information Act by the all-of-Government response to the remote West Coast community, looking at issues raised by leavers, investigations and court cases.
Ten government agencies are involved, including Police, WorkSafe, Oranga Tamariki and Te Whatu Ora. The joint response was set up in August 2022 and is chaired by the Regional Public Service Commissioner for West Coast, Craig Churchill, and reports regularly to Associate Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Priyanca Radhakrishnan.
WorkSafe said it was notified in mid-May about a 12-year-old Gloriavale boy reaching into a large washing machine while it was spinning and fracturing his arm in a laundry.
“We have been informed that children under 15 are no longer permitted in the laundry,” a spokesperson said.
Documents from the Gloriavale-West Coast Stakeholder Group, which meets fortnightly, say Gloriavale has established two health and safety committees and WorkSafe was visiting the community every fortnight.
In June, WorkSafe inspectors were unsure if they had jurisdiction in the laundry, the documents show.
One inspector told the group WorkSafe would be able to issue notices to improve if a group of women claiming to be employees, not volunteers, won their Employment Court case against the community.
A decision by the Employment Court in July found women who worked in the community’s laundry were workers. WorkSafe has not yet responded to questions from The Press about whether any notices to improve have since been issued.
The documents also show Oranga Tamariki was looking into concerns about children’s education at Gloriavale, including having maths and English classes in the mornings and then being free for the afternoon.
The community was looking at the possibility of teachers coming to the West Coast from the India Gloriavale Community to boost the school’s staffing numbers.
Oranga Tamariki was holding hui weekly with child protection leads and attending the monthly Gloriavale steering group hui, and a fortnightly stakeholders meeting.
It was also funding community organisations to provide treatment for victims and perpetrators of sexually harmful behaviours.
The documents revealed police’s investigation at Gloriavale, dubbed Operation Minneapolis, identified 61 people – mostly young people – as being involved in alleged offending at Gloriavale. Five had been charged and were at various stages of the court process. Another police investigation – into forced labour/slavery – was in the very early stages and a range of other matters were ongoing, the documents say.
Police were holding prevention visits at least fortnightly and engaging with “a wide spread of residents, including several identified vulnerable members requiring support”.
Te Whatu Ora was making changes to the way it worked with the community, including providing dental care for children, B4 school checks, and increasing accessibility for referral services.
A representative told the stakeholder group it was still seeing people daily and there was no psychological or child development promotion in the community.
“Community members typically have to get permission to see a doctor for illness, with the route taken to wellness as praying to get better first, before they make contact with health services,” she said.
The Ministry of Education had met the board of trustees and the acting principal, who resigned in July.
“This remains a fragile staffing situation. The community had reached out to an external consultant to recruit a principal and for governance and management support,” the documents say.
Nine teachers attended curriculum training in Greymouth and the ministry had written to the community warning that its license did not allow it to operate a school from two classrooms built at its Lake Brunner site where four families were now living.
Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust manager Liz Gregory said it was good that the Government was finally taking notice after leavers had been asking for action, though progress appeared to be happening at “a snail’s pace”.
“The Government seems to be doing a lot of talking, having a lot of meetings, doing a lot of paper shuffling. Unfortunately people in Gloriavale are still waiting for meaningful change. What’s the future plan to make sure these people are not enslaved or entrapped?”
She said it appeared a lot of resources were going into helping Gloriavale, but leavers relied on the trust’s public fundraising and philanthropic grants.
Leavers had to pick up their lives after the trauma of living in and leaving Gloriavale, and were the ones having to lead the charge in taking Gloriavale and the Government to court to get accountability.
“It’s wrong that the victims have to do this,” Gregory said.
“The Government seems to be doing a lot of talking, having a lot of meetings, doing a lot of paper shuffling. Unfortunately people in Gloriavale are still waiting for meaningful change.” Liz Gregory Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust manager