“Relieved and vindicated” Former Gloriavale residents speak out on employment case

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Jul 13, 2023 |

 “Relieved and vindicated.” That’s the feeling amongst six women who are former residents of the West Coast community of Gloriavale.

Anna Courage, Rose Standtrue, Crystal Loyal, Pearl Valor, Virginia Courage and Serenity Pilgrim took Gloriavale leaders to court arguing they lived in servitude working on the West Coast commune’s domestic teams and were not community volunteers.

The decision released this morning by the Employment Court has found unequivocally that the plaintiffs were employees at the community, contrary to the arguments from Gloriavale and the findings of the Labour Inspectorate.

Chief Judge Inglis said in her judgement “I have no doubt that a reasonably informed objective observer going into the facilities (including the kitchens, laundry and sewing room), seeing the equipment and the general layout and observing the work being done over an extended period of time, would very likely conclude that the relationship had the hallmarks of employment.

“The evidence disclosed that none of the plaintiffs were given a choice about whether they worked on the Teams or not. Broadly speaking, that decision had been assigned at birth, having been born female.

“In a typical week in 2018, the female workforce in the kitchen produced more than 11,000 meals; the female workforce in the laundry washed at least 17,000 items.

“The evidence clearly established that the work required to produce these outcomes was unrelenting, grinding, hard, and physically and psychologically demanding.  

“I have reached the conclusion, based on the evidence before the Court, that the plaintiffs did their work on the Teams, which admittedly benefitted the Community, because that is what they were told to do; what each of them had been trained to accept from birth; and the consequences of not doing what was expected (namely falling “out of unity”) were dire and well known – exclusion from the Community, from all that was familiar, from family and friends, and into a world they know little about, were ill equipped to navigate and had been taught to fear.”

Barrister Brian Henry who is has headed the legal team in the case against Gloriavale said the decision vindicates the arguments made by the plaintiffs.

“One of the plaintiff’s first reaction when told of the judgement exclaimed “she (the judge) got it!”

“This sums up my own reaction. It has been a long ten weeks of evidence and the sad aspect of the case is, as her honour has found, those living in the community are trained to be happy whilst working in what her honour called “unrelenting, grinding hard and physically and psychologically demanding work.

“We have always known from the first proper reading of the Gloriavale document “what we believe”, that there wear all the hallmarks of an employment relationship, the concept that they’re volunteers distressed the plaintiffs and this decision vindicates their angst their bravery to come to court and face those who have dominated their life since birth, I cannot overstate the over courage of these young women and it has been an absolute privilege to act for them.”

One of the plaintiffs is Serenity Pilgrim.

“If you were born a girl, you were groomed to work. I haven’t read the whole judgement but from what I have seen, that’s clearly what the judge has understood and ruled,” she said.

The case began at the end of August last year, adjourning at the end of September then resuming again on February 13 this year and finally wrapping up at the end of March, with the judge reserving her decision.

The question as to who the employer of each of the plaintiffs was during the relevant times is adjourned.

Brian Henry and the legal team will now carefully consider what the next moves will be.

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

Have you got a news tip? Get in touch here

got a news tip?