Connie’s story: Gloriavale leaver who reported father to police opens home to him

She escaped from Gloriavale and told police of the years of physical abuse she and her younger sister endured at the hands of their father. But when it was his time to get out, she took him in as she navigated the ‘normal’ things most of us take for granted: technology, fashion, earning her own money and relationships. Now her family is at the centre of a civil case set to shake up the commune, writes Alanah Eriksen.

It may seem pretty normal.

A young mum in ripped jeans on a Saturday morning in a house of her own giving her two sons a glass of chocolate milk each. The little boys then playing in their lounge filled with colourful toys and watching cartoons, their mum speaking the odd word in te reo Māori.

Then it’s a video call with dad.

But up until recently, Constance Ready wouldn’t have dreamed of family life like this. This year marks five years since the 27-year-old, who now goes by Connie, fled Gloriavale, a fundamentalist Christian community of about 600 people on the West Coast, where she was born, with her 12 siblings.

She was brought up on a very low sugar diet. She didn’t have toys or a TV, and cellphones were forbidden. She’d only ever worn a floor-length blue dress. And she believes her Ngāti Porou heritage on her mother’s side was not embraced by elders.

“Because no one has money there’s not the opportunity to buy anything for your kids.

“There was maybe a doll an older sibling had made at an art class.”

Kids mainly played outside to “get away from the boredom”.

She remembers her family having a heater in their shared room, but says it was later confiscated by elders after an accident involving another family.

“I remember how special it was, us kids gathered around the heater on cold mornings. It’s the simple things you take for granted.”

At peak, 11 family members shared a bedroom and Ready shared a bed with her younger sister.

“For me it was triggering as a young woman and coming into young adulthood, going through all those changes that you do and not having privacy. Everything is bared.”

Ready now lives in Rotorua and works as a consultant for Arbonne as an independent consultant selling beauty and nutrition products. The irony of working with makeup is not lost on her.

“It was considered very worldly and not necessary. But then you’re not taught to care and look after yourself. You weren’t even allowed to pluck your eyebrows or shave your legs or under your arms.”

Now, with her own social media account, one of her posts sums up how far Ready has come.

The caption reads: “Thanks Dad for spending some catch up time with us and your moko. Was great to see you come back soon. #dadtime #greattime #comeagainsoon”.

There’s the fact she’s posted something at all – the internet is also considered too “worldly” for members of the sect. But even more astounding is the subject of the photo, Clem Ready. Her father. The man she reported to police after she ran away from the sect after years of physical abuse at his hands.

He was convicted in 2018 of physically abusing Ready and her younger sister Prayer, who died in an unrelated incident after choking on a piece of meat while locked in an isolation room.

Ready says she felt a duty to report her father to get justice for Prayer – who had Down syndrome – the youngest of the 13 siblings.

But she has now forgiven him. She even took him in after he left Gloriavale following the court case when none of her siblings living on the outside were willing to do so, she says.

“Forgiveness for me is not about what the other person is doing but it’s a point where I can now move on from that and realise that I can be the bigger person,” she tells the Weekend Herald.

“I can be an adult about it now. I’m not a child, I’m not a victim.

“As a child you rely on other people to be good to you to feel wanted and feel accepted and feel loved. As an adult, I don’t have to have that to love myself and accept myself.”

Clem Ready is back living on Gloriavale grounds but working as a carpet layer in Greymouth and locked in a battle with the elders about his presence here.

The Weekend Herald can also reveal his wife Sharon Ready, 64 – who spent 50 years in the sect, making her one of the longest-serving members – also has her first job on the outside, as an early childhood teacher.

The family is now at the centre of a civil legal case set to shake upthe commune. Sharon and son John, Connie’s oldest sibling, have launched a potentially landmark legal case to try to remove the leadership.

'He was searching for something'

When Gloriavale founder Neville Cooper and his wife Gloria moved from Australia to New Zealand in the 1960s, they stayed with Sharon’s family, whom they knew through church circles.

Cooper went on to found the Springbank Christian Community at Cust, near Christchurch.

In 1971, Sharon’s father Tuakana drowned and Cooper offered to take in her mother Ivy Rerehuia Green and her nine children. Sharon, the eldest, was 14.

“She was a widow, she had children,”Connie Ready explains.

“It would have been a hard time for her. They said they’d provide a house for her, she wouldn’t have to worry about bills. They’d take care of her.”

Clem Ready, now 66, was vulnerable like Ivy, his daughter says. He joined the community in his late teens after his mother died of cancer.

“It was a very emotionally triggering event for him and he’s tried to run away from the pain of it.

“He was searching for something.”

Cooper would later change his name to Hopeful Christian, move the expanding community to the Haupiri Valley and rename it Gloriavale. The community would be plagued by scandal over the years. In 1995, Cooper served 11 months in prison on sexual abuse charges. Members of the community had believed he was jailed for preaching the gospel.

Cooper arranged for Clem and Sharon to be married when her mother “was starting to realise what kind of place Neville was creating”, Ready says. She believes it was an attempt to keep the rest of her mother’s family there.

But one by one, each of her siblings left, as did their mother.

The couple went on to have 13 children: John, Virginia, James, Beulah, Angel, Melody, Seth, Luke, Sarah, Constance, Joyful, David and Prayer.

Sharon was 19 when she had John and 45 when she had Prayer. They’ve all now had children of their own and Ready estimates they now have between 60 and 80 mokopuna in total.

The siblings attended Gloriavale’s school but Connie Ready says that, like other children in the community, she worked from a young age without pay, starting with smaller jobs like setting dining tables or cooking.

“You’re working right from when you start school.

“From a young age as a girl, you start being initiated into the whole system and running of things. It’s never a little fun activity you are doing. It’s a huge responsibility. You don’t stay a child very long as a girl. The boys had more of a childhood. They were probably out on the farm, going for rides in the tractor with their dad but there was no pressure.”

She didn’t have a concept of what might be on the outside world when she was younger.

“I was a nature child and every spare moment I would sneak away, roaming the bush, listening to the birds.

“It made me so incredibly happy and I probably didn’t understand why. I got in trouble for it all the time, ‘It’s dangerous, you’re by yourself, what if you get lost?’.

“Girls are basically worked until the sun goes down and then you’re not allowed to go anywhere when it’s dark ‘because it’s not safe’.”

The only times she had left the community was during some summers as a child when groups would go to Nelson to pick fruit at orchards.

Despite saying she never “saw any of the money” – anything earned was paid to the leaders – some of her best memories growing up were getting out during those summers.

She recalls when she was 12 her paternal grandfather came to meet the family within Gloriavale because he was dying.

“I didn’t know how to handle it because I didn’t grow up knowing I had anybody else other than the people right there.

“You think, ‘Grandparents? But I don’t know this person’. It was really strange. Dad was really strict about us not bonding with him because of the rules, you can’t have contact with people on the outside… family is only who remain in there.”

Raising questions

As a young teenager, Connie started to properly question the way she and her family were living.

“I could see the impact of the system, the unfairness towards the girls and the women.

“I could see the racist undertone.”

But she says she was a hard worker, which was enough to distract her at the beginning. The women were divided into four teams when it came to completing chores and by age 16, she was promoted to third in charge of hers.

“I loved to work. I loved being active. I’ve got a real knack for organisation.”

She recalls the second in charge of her team, one of Cooper’s many grandchildren, having a breakdown.

“Maybe on the outside she was this bubbly person but on the inside she must have been struggling. She started talking to things. It was like she lost her mind for a while. It was really sad to see her in that state.”

Ready says she got blamed.

“I really feel like… she was the white girl and I was the brown girl. So I mustn’t have been helping enough… she was carrying too much on her.

“To feel the blame for it.. it changed me as a person. I was a lot more guarded.

“When she returned she wasn’t the same… everything just fell apart.”

Connie got moved to a different team and “slowly ended up further down the pile”.

“Your life is written for you by the leadership. They decide who you are, what attributes you have, if you are worthy to do certain jobs. And if you are on their blacklist, you are always on their blacklist and there is nothing you can do to change that.”

In her last year of school she worked in the community’s early childhood centre.

“It was an extremely exhausting time of my life.”

But she says she loved working with children. She had four in her care at any one time.

She recalls having a breakthrough with a set of twin brothers whose mother was working in the community. The boys were constantly crying.

“Their mum was never allowed full time with them… they were fighting for attention. Once they realised, ‘We are being looked after’, they calmed down.”

Connie then also took on breadmaking. A typical day for her would start at 3.30am in the kitchen before kindergarten started at 9am. The mothers would pick up their children at lunchtime and then another kindy session would start and end at 3.30pm.

“Then for me, it was back into whatever jobs my team was doing for the day.”

The final straw

Prayer’s death was the final straw for Ready.

In June 2015, the 14-year-old was in an isolation room, with the door handles disabled to prevent people getting in and out, when she choked on her dinner, according to a coroner’s report into her death.

Sharon was also in the room and caring for four other children with their father Stephen Ben-Caanan. The group had been put in the room to stop infection spreading after the childrens’ baby brother had been hospitalised with what Gloriavale described as an “infectious and dangerous disease”.

The coroner ruled it was a tragic accident and he did not think the fact people could not enter or exit the room contributed to Prayer’s death.

But Ready couldn’t accept the death and says that senior leaders held meetings with her over it.

“They tried immensely hard to try and get me to confirm to them that I’d dropped it, that it wasn’t a big deal. In them pushing so hard, it made me push back harder. That’s where it all started falling apart for me. I couldn’t believe that these people I trusted all my life could allow something like this to happen and take no responsibility for it and not show any remorse or empathy.”

She felt as though she couldn’t trust anyone inside, including family members.

“If there is ever an issue you are struggling with, you can’t confide in anybody because everybody is an informer and whatever information you give them, it will always be used against you.

“It had been so ingrained in my life that you just don’t talk about what’s happening with you. Not even just secrets but, ‘I’ve been feeling so depressed lately and sad and I don’t know what to do’. They’d be like, ‘Well you’re not having enough faith, you need to just read the Bible more, you need to pray, you need to fast’.”

She thinks that if she had stayed any longer, leaders would have tried to arrange for her to be married to a boy in the community.

“I believe that was the whole reason they were trying to forget about my sister’s passing so that they could marry me. But they knew while I was in that state I wasn’t open at all to the possibility. It was just a no no.”

So, in August 2016, aged 22, she hatched a plan to get out.

She had a small window between when everyone went to bed and 3.30am when she was meant to be up to bake the bread.

Initially planning to cycle 18km out of the Gloriavale grounds to a farm she’d heard helped leavers, a friend she confided in talked her out of it. It was in the middle of winter and snowing.

But the friend helped her take Cooper’s car -her husband did reconnaissance and found the keys had been left in the ignition.

But just driving out through the front gate wasn’t an option; the community had a “night watch” – members who patrolled the area. Luckily, the women knew of a gate that had been left open for the milk tanker.

On top of the risk of getting caught, neither woman had their driver’s licence as women in Gloriavale only had what were called “community licences” allowing them to drive on the property.

After about 40 minutes, the pair arrived at the farm. Ready’s brother had worked there previously and other leavers had stayed there.

“It was the place to go.”

She recalls her nerves as she knocked on the door in the middle of the night.

“I thought, ‘If nobody wakes up, what are we going to do?’ I would have gone back. Then a light went on and I thought, ‘Thank the Lord’. They came stumbling out in their dressing gowns.”

The farming couple, who did not want to be named, tells the Weekend Herald they didn’t hesitate to help when she turned up.

“Connie’s arrival was a complete surprise, but we had previous experience with people leaving Gloriavale and their subsequent journeys, and this very much influenced our thoughts and actions,” the wife says.

“We liken those who leave Gloriavale to that of refugees adjusting to a new country where the culture, language, customs, expectations and routines of daily life all need to be learned and considered. They need as refugees to resettle and even those who have given some forethought and planning to leaving, don’t tend to account for the magnitude of adjustment and realignment in this resettlement process.”

The next day the couple let Ready’s family know she was safe.

“So, when you open the door to someone like Connie, the immediate thought is of their vulnerability and a duty of care born from a compassion for them but also the family they have left behind who will most likely have some serious worries about the decision that has been made.

“Connie, like others arrived solely with the clothes on her back.”

The woman says she and her husband offered the basics like food, a bed and then “some orientation to what their decision means in terms of what needs to be considered for them to live life away from their home environment”.

“For most, they have never spent a night away from their parents, managed money, or been for a job interview or bought clothes or personal items for themselves.

“We give the opportunity of some space, time and support to put together a plan of, ‘What now, and what next’. We facilitate connections with the agencies and people that they need to get started and where possible this involves talking to those who have successfully managed the leaving journey before.

“It is hard not to see the child in even those who are too old to technically be labelled one and even more difficult to ignore the parent in us, and so there is usually a condensed version of what our own children have received over a number of years regarding the critical elements in making good choices, respecting others and ultimately respecting themselves. It is not ever enough and challenging for it to be heard in such an extraordinary circumstance.

“We don’t judge. The decision to leave is made and owned by them.”

She says that sometimes, when the reality of the leaver’s decision sets in, it can change “and our responsibility is to assist them to revoke that decision in such a way that returning home is as easy as possible”.

Ready’s older sister Virginia Courage called the home and offered to pick her up and bring her back but she’d had enough: “This place won’t allow me to just be me. They get ridiculous… specific facial expressions, the way you walk, you talk.”

The couple bought Ready a cellphone and Luke, one of her brothers who had left, called her on it – the first call she had ever received on a cellphone.

“I remember I was so nervous holding the phone and talking to him because it was such a banned thing. I was trying to talk to him and my whole body was shaking just from not ever being allowed. It was like a bad thing I was doing.”

Ready stayed with the couple over the next six weeks.

While there, Ready also met the police area commander at the time, Inspector Mel Aitken (now a superintendent at police headquarters in Wellington), at the couple’s home. She knew of Aitken through a Gloriavale concert the community used to hold every two years and she was “an inspiration”.

Although the couple have helped other leavers, they are keen to stress: “This is Connie’s story”.

They stay in touch with Ready and she told them at the end of last year she would be speaking at an event for Gloriavale leavers. They made reference to Rachel Platten’s The Fight Song.

“We text back, ‘Make sure you sing your song Connie’. She used to sing it in the back of our car. Every one of her brothers and sisters also have that determined, fighting spirit.”

Trying to rebuild

Ready’s brother suggested she go to Timaru where other families who had left were living. She did so and stayed with Elijah and Rosanna Overcomer, a couple who left in 2013. Elijah had been banished after questioning Cooper about his sexual abuse case. Rosanna left to be with her husband along with their three small children and a fourth on the way.

Rosanna helped Connie get ID, an IRD number, bank account, birth certificate, have her school qualifications sent to her and set up a job-seeker benefit.

“We weren’t allowed freedom on the internet. Social media was huge or just learning how to use a phone, setting up an email address, having an app where I could see my bank account… getting paid and seeing it in my bank account and being able to spend it was just crazy. Just building up the confidence to use a card, trying to remember what the pin is. You’re an adult but you’re thinking, ‘Did I do it right?'”

Shopping for clothes was also a struggle after years of conservative dressing.

“I didn’t know what I liked. I didn’t know what I didn’t like… long skirts, dresses? I did like pants but I didn’t find anything for a while. I didn’t think about different brands.”

She remembers babysitting local children and trying her first beer with the parents before they left to go out.

“I said, ‘People this stuff is way too sweet, what are you thinking?’ I wasn’t even thinking about the alcohol. ‘Don’t drink that, that’s poisonous’. We did have quite a low sugar diet and sweets was just something that I couldn’t handle… it was like having a hangover.”

The Overcomers encouraged her to get in touch with her mother’s family in the North Island and she moved up to Taupo to live with an aunt who had left the community several years prior.

About five months after she left Gloriavale, Ready arranged to see her family again. But she says the leadership wouldn’t allow her to come onto the property so she threatened to turn up with Aitken.

The leadership eventually agreed to send her siblings to a farm house where she could meet them.

“That to me sounded really good but what they did was call them all into a meeting before they let them go, ‘Look your sister’s here, she just wants to create trouble. She said she’s going to bring the police. Go and sort her out’. That’s basically what they did.

“I wanted it to be a healing experience. I wanted to be able to explain to them what had happened and the reason I had left and what I had been struggling with, trying to cope after our sister passed away. As a family we hadn’t been able to grieve or talk about it.”

An elder accompanied the family.

“It just didn’t work with him being there. It wasn’t natural or comfortable.

“You can’t even trust your own siblings. The leaders have worked out the technique to just break families apart because broken families are much easier to control. It’s really sad.”

Ready says her family had been manipulated and “it was nothing but hurtful”. She says she was told things like, “You are worthless, nothing, we don’t care about you. You just made everything up.”

Gloriavale did not respond to request for comment by the Weekend Herald about Ready’s claims in this story.

After the meeting, she says she thought, “someone deserves to pay”.

“I thought, if I can’t get justice for myself, what about for my baby sister who’s passed away? She didn’t have the best life. I just felt like it was time to do something. Time to make a stand.”

She says her sister Virginia later told her: “I knew when we left you that day that a switch would have just gone off in you, ‘You can’t treat me like that anymore’.”

Connie adds: “She said that she said to my dad, ‘Are you sure it’s wise to leave her in this state?’.”

So she went to police in Greymouth and told them her father assaulted her and Prayer with his hands or objects such as shoes or belts between 1998 to 2014, when they were aged between 5 and 17 years old.

She says John, Virginia and her mother corroborated her story.

“All of us knew in our minds that if we could help bring a change to him, help him realise, help him wake up, help him see what he was allowing, in turn accepting, by the community, maybe it would help him to be a better person.”

As Ready was making a new life for herself, having moved in with another aunt in Hamilton and starting a bachelor in te reo Māori at Waikato University and starting her first relationship, her father was charged.

Clem appeared in court on assault charges in July 2017 and in May 2018, was convicted and sentenced in the Greymouth District Court to 12 months’ supervision. He was ordered to pay his daughter $1000 in emotional harm reparation.

Clem provided a statement to the Weekend Herald via the Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust.

“I am so blessed to be able to re-establish relationships with my family and I am very sorry for the harm I caused them,” he said.

“I am not proud of my actions and I have spent a lot of time since leaving Gloriavale reflecting on my life. I want to thank those who are assisting my family and I to establish ourselves on the outside, and am looking forward to this new chapter in our lives.”

His sentencing was the same month Cooper died of cancer, aged in his 90s. He was replaced by former US Navy engineer Howard Temple.

“Neville was never a good person,” Ready says.

“The type of people he attracted were the same kind or people who had the same weaknesses and troubles and problems.

“All the people he drew in who ended up in leadership were all men who loved to dominate and not be told they couldn’t do a certain thing that they wanted to do.

“Some of them aren’t that bad but by not standing up, you’re just as bad, you’re an accomplice to the things that have happened.”

Others take on Gloriavale

Seven Ready siblings have now left the community with their families.

John has launched a potentially landmark legal case with his mother to try and remove the board of trustees of the Christian Church Community Trust – the registered charity behind the community. The case got its first day in court last Thursday.

It’s expected that the case will allege inappropriate sexual conduct inside the community.

At the High Court in Christchurch, lawyer Brian Henry alleged that the current set-up at Gloriavale was “breeding predators” and that members were “literally in slave labour”. He claimed that the leadership uses “food as a weapon to control people” and that people are put on “porridge for weeks at a time”.

“The trust has set up a village to look after people for life,” Henry said, adding that they were obliged to provide a “proper and safe environment”.

Richard Raymond QC, acting for several defendants including Temple, vehemently denied many of Henry’s accusations.

John left in 2017 after he was caught with Christian reading material, leaving his wife Purity and nine children inside. The couple had a 10th child, conceived during a fleeting meet-up.

He’s now living back with his family on Gloriavale grounds in the same building as his mother and father. He has refused to leave after being confronted by leaders.

His case comes after a string of fresh controversies surrounding the community.

In December, the principal of Gloriavale school Faithful Pilgrim was stood down while the New Zealand Teaching Council investigated claims he failed to keep children safe from abuse by staff and other pupils.

And back in September WorkSafe carried out a workplace assessment on the grounds after reports of 23-hour work shifts for members, and threats by church leaders.

It told Gloriavale to improve work practices but found no evidence to support allegations the community isn’t managing the risk of fatigue in the workplace.

Getting out

About 185 people have left the community over the past few years says Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust manager Liz Gregory.

Gregory and husband Graham started helping leavers about eight years ago after a former Gloriavale family came to their Baptist church in Timaru.

“People in the church became surrogate grandparents to their children.

“It increased from there – their cousins, sisters and uncles started leaving and we got involved. It was a good supportive network that has grown from there.”

The couple set up a trust about a year ago and work from a shipping container on their property in Timaru with three staff.

Leavers often stay with them or other local families. They help set up bank accounts, arrange housing, clothes, furniture and emotional support.

They also run events for leavers – Connie Ready spoke at one in Cambridge and one in Tauranga last year in which she told how she’d stolen Cooper’s car when she left.

“I just roared with laughter,” Gregory says.

“The audacity of it. It was fantastic that it was Hopeful’s car. It shows that people go to extreme lengths to get out of there. When you’ve got to go, you’ve just got to go.”

The trust has also helped Clem and Sharon Ready and many members of the wider family.

“It’s been a pleasure to be part of a community effort to help them rebuild their lives. The Readys are an inspirational family. They have been through the fire, and have withstood attempts to break them. They have a resolve and strength which means they are now able to stand up against injustice and be a voice for many other people in Gloriavale who are suffering silently.”

A new life

Dating was also new for Connie Ready as she rebuilt her life.

On a bus from Taupo to Hamilton in 2017 she met her husband-to-be, Kapeneta Tagaloa Tuimaualuga.

“We were never allowed to cultivate a relationship unless it was an arranged marriage. We weren’t even allowed to have a casual conversation with any of the young men.

“He was my first boyfriend, my first love.”

The young couple were delighted when she became pregnant with Ronan, who turns 3 in April. She finished her course early and moved to Rotorua to be with her partner.

The couple were married by the end of the year in a day tinged with sadness.

Ready believes Gloriavale leaders arranged for her younger sister Joyful, who was 22, to be married to a 16-year-old boy in the community so that her parents couldn’t come to the wedding.

“I talked to my mum about it. I wanted to know if she had valid concerns, ‘What do you really think? This is your last child at home. It’s a piece of your family that you can still hold on to’. She said, ‘I don’t want my baby to be marrying anybody. Obviously I don’t want her stuck at home with me and her father forever but this person’s just a little boy’.”

Connie offered to come and get her mother and sister. She says tickets were booked and her younger brother was meant to pick them up but it didn’t happen.

Joyful hadn’t been told of the plan as they were worried about what she might think.

“Until you actually come away from the energy and the wairua of that place, you don’t have a mind, you can’t truly honestly make decisions and choices, you’ve never been able to,” Ready says.

“We wanted to get her up here just to give her space and have the opportunity to think.”

But Joyful was married to the teenager.

Meanwhile, Ready’s brother Luke walked her down the aisle at her own wedding. He and brother David were the only immediate family members who attended the ceremony. Some extended family also attended.

Ronan’s birth the following year was difficult and Ready became depressed.

“I didn’t have a mum or sisters around so I didn’t have anyone to tell me what to expect, ‘Your body’s going to change, this is going to happen. Everything’s going to be different when you have a baby’. I really struggled mentally.”

About five months later, she got pregnant with her second son Remaliah, who will be 2 in June.

During that pregnancy, she reconnected with her father.

Clem was out of the community for about 18 months after his court case. He had started to ask questions about an alleged sexual assault involving another member within Gloriavale.

He stayed with his daughter’s family in Rotorua while working as a truck driver for three months.

“I did a court case against him for abuse and he still came and stayed with me because none of my other siblings would take him. It’s kind of weird isn’t it? But he had nowhere else to go so I just had to be the bigger person about it.”

It was not all happy families during that time, but father and daughter were civil towards one another.

Ready says he was selective about what he believed when it came to Gloriavale’s teachings.

“We did get into some big fights when he was staying with me, with me realising that he was never going to change and he was always going to hold these stupid opinions. He’s always going to be the person that he is but I don’t have to get so emotionally involved anymore.

“I feel he still has victim mentality a lot.

“He likes to blame the environment, the situations, the work pressures, rather than taking responsibility for his part.”

Now back living on Gloriavale grounds, Ready says her father got legal backing so the leaders wouldn’t kick him and Sharon out.

The couple can’t afford a house of their own and Sharon wants to be close to Prayer’s grave and her children still inside, Ready says.

Ready had Remaliah in June 2019. A few months later, her husband had to go back to Samoa as he tried to get his New Zealand residency. He has been unable to return to the country with our borders closed.

The time apart gave Ready time to reflect.

“I never really gave myself a chance to really figure me out. I never gave myself the opportunity to work through the trauma and healing. With him not being here, it gave me the opportunity to do that.

“I ran into a relationship, it felt like the safest thing to do… but I didn’t actually do the work within me to heal.

“I’d only been on my own six months when we got together.

“I felt like i was dying inside. I needed to feel like I was enough again.

“It’s not because I’m trying to find relationship with someone else.”

The couple are now separated but on good terms.

“I don’t want my kids growing up without their dad,” Ready says.

“They’re going to bond with other people. When their father is finally back in the country, I don’t want it to be weird or awkward.”

Keeping faith

Ready doesn’t recall when she realised her mum was Māori but she has totally embraced the culture since leaving Gloriavale.

She and brother David were recently welcomed onto their ancestral marae – Hinerupe in Te Araroa and Rahui at Tikitiki on the East Cape.

“It was an absolutely surreal experience, unbelievable. You want to know where you belong, what grounds you.

“There were a lot of tears.

“It was just ‘Welcome home’ and we were introduced to kaumatua. All the older ones know the story of my mum and us children. I don’t think my nan has ever let anyone forget what happened to her oldest baby.”

Ready also still holds a religious faith but does not have the same strict views as Gloriavale members.

“I believe there’s a God. I believe in goodness and in love and people. I don’t think we should minimise ourselves to black and white when there’s so many colours. Why do we have to be this or that when we can be everything?”

She plans to tell her children about her unorthodox upbringing when they are old enough to understand.

“I want them to know some of it, what shaped me as their mother… I wouldn’t even know how to have that conversation with them. One day they’ll probably find something online and be like, ‘Mum is this you?'”

Where to get help:

• If it’s an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

• If you’ve ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline

on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334. Alternatively contact your local police station

• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)

: 0800 376 633

• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)

: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)

: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)

• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202


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