Residents of Gloriavale say they “owe their lives” to the commune

Gloriavale members are growing up being told they owe their lives to the West Coast commune, the labor court has been told.

Virginia Courage is one of six former female members who say they should have been treated as employees rather than volunteers at Gloriavale.

READ MORE: Gloriavale parents forced to work to care for sick children, court hears

She began testifying last week and continues on Monday.

Courage said the children are growing up with a real sense of obligation and being told that the late founding leader Hopeful Christian gave them life.

“You are told very little that if Hopeful hadn’t created the community… then you wouldn’t have been born.

“You’re told you have to sacrifice yourself, work hard, lay down your flesh,” Courage said.

The court heard that bullying and teasing were part of the culture of the commune.

READ MORE: Two categories of people in Gloriavale – court hears

“Hopeful was a bully and he bullied everyone.

“He made fun of me for how I looked when I was pregnant, how I walked when I was heavily pregnant.”

Virginia Courage said most people had become desensitized to the bullying and probably didn’t even realize they were doing it.

She said women had been conditioned to work at all costs and she had been forced to work through pregnancies, bladder infections and severe sciatic nerve damage.

READ MORE: Gloriavale lawyer claims former resident waived employment rights

Long working hours and job changes were used as punishment for women who “couldn’t be controlled” or who “struggled to learn”.

Courage said a woman thought “Howard is trying to kill me” because she had to work so hard.

The hearing continues.

Joan D. Boling