CIFS Conference Canberra November 2011

Free to shine

Shiny & Free
This article is a result of the CIFS Conference in Canberra, as there will be more news coming from this event I've started a new thread.

Create special laws for cults: DPP

Adelaide Now

by: Catherine Hockley in Canberra

The Advertiser

November 03, 2011

SA's chief prosecutor Stephen Pallaras is calling for new laws to thwart the rise of cults across the nation.

Mr Pallaras says a new approach by law-makers needs to address the "mental damage and mental harm" caused by cults.

"Conventional laws have difficulty in coping with the injuries that are caused. What I'm interested in is finding a way to deal with the damage that the cults do," he said.

His calls are backed by South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, who invited Mr Pallaras to Canberra yesterday to meet the chief of the French Government's cult-busting agency, Miviludes.

The DPP faced criticism earlier this year over its handling of the case involving those involved with the doomsday Adelaide-based cult, Agape Ministries.

Mr Pallaras would not comment on that case, but said Australia could learn from the French approach to cults.

"The sorts of mental damage and mental harm that we're hearing about from these people are not easily coped with by the laws we've got, not only in our state, but across Australia," he said.

"And it may be that we've got to look at something like the French are doing to help us cope with that evil which is a social evil." Senator Xenophon said "the Agape Ministries debacle is proof our current laws don't work".

"For the first time an Australian DPP has recognised the weaknesses in our laws when it comes to abuse within cults," he said.

Senator Xenophon said the French "cult-busting laws work; they give protection to victims".

Mr Pallaras says under Australian laws, prosecution is difficult.

"They're (cults) not any harder to prosecute than anyone else if they commit conventional offences," he said.

"The trouble is the evil they represent ... is much more difficult to address with conventional laws, so we've got to look at something a bit unconventional."

Attorney-General John Rau yesterday agreed: "This is a very difficult area for prosecutors".

But he warned: "Any government contemplating specific anti-cult legislation would need to tread carefully.

"I am interested in discussing this issue with the DPP and hearing his ideas about a better approach to tackling their damaging behaviour," he said.

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/create-special-laws-for-cults-dpp/story-e6frea6u-1226184076536


CIFS - Cult Information and Family Support - http://www.cifs.org.au/conference.php
 

scooter

Gold Meritorious Patron
Will get some sort of post-game report up here once I have more time.:yes:

In short, it was fantastic and full of win.:happydance:

I'm still high from all that happened that day but just don't have time to stop and put it all down for you all. Hopefully vid.s will become available soon as there were fantastic speakers with great ideas and experience in the field of cults.:clap::clap::clap:

Expect many good things to come from this - I truly believe it was a giant step in the right direction for us all here in Oz and hopefully elsewhere.:thumbsup:

Must back to work now - will post more over the weekend IF I get time.
 

greebly

Patron with Honors
Will get some sort of post-game report up here once I have more time.:yes:

In short, it was fantastic and full of win.:happydance:

I'm still high from all that happened that day but just don't have time to stop and put it all down for you all. Hopefully vid.s will become available soon as there were fantastic speakers with great ideas and experience in the field of cults.:clap::clap::clap:

Expect many good things to come from this - I truly believe it was a giant step in the right direction for us all here in Oz and hopefully elsewhere.:thumbsup:

Must back to work now - will post more over the weekend IF I get time.


Thx Scooter the political landscape has to take shape now, globally.

Keep the momentum going.
 

Zhent

Leakus Maximus
Will get some sort of post-game report up here once I have more time.:yes:

Same.

This was such a huge and important event for Australia cult watchers, but it looks like everyone who attended has been flat out busy since Wednesday! (myself included) :omg:
 

Jump

Operating teatime
Same.

This was such a huge and important event for Australia cult watchers, but it looks like everyone who attended has been flat out busy since Wednesday! (myself included) :omg:

Short summary of the Conference:
win after win after win...
 

scooter

Gold Meritorious Patron
Here's my brief post-game. It's certainly no substitute for being there but until we get the vid.s, I hope this gives you an idea of how much win there was in one day.

I got there around 8:30am with my sis. and met up with a friend then went inside and chatted to various folks I knew and several who I’d never met before. Then the crew from ACA arrived and I chatted to them, as did several other folk. Couldn’t see any obvious scilon trolls around but was told that a legal rep. from the EBs (Exclusive Brethren) was booked in for the conference but hadn’t arrived yet. I heard a few more horror stories about this group from some survivors then we all did a group walk for the cameras (see post #3 above for the results ) and back inside to sit down and wait for the conference to start.

Now I’m doing all this by memory so I’m not sure of the order of events but I think it all went like this:

We had a brief welcome by Peter Flinn of CIFS Victoria then an intro to the conference by Sen. Sue Boyce, who spoke of how she became interested in the problem of cults and their abuses.

Dr Stephen Mutch gave a great presentation called “Cults and Public Policy: Protecting the Victims of Cultic Abuse in Australia” – he’d done a great job for the Senate Inquiry that I attended with several others from this board. I was looking forward to what he had to say and it was great. He’s been on the receiving side of Fair Game and gave us some insights into that as well as how cults in general operate and what needed to be done to press for justice.

Raphael Aron got up next and gave some great insights into the mentality of cults and drew some parallels with terrorist groups that were spine-chilling. I’d half-thought of some of these before (particularly when doing a story with a journo about CCHR) but he really put it into perspective for me. Plus he talked about his exit counselling and I got some great insights and ideas from that. The title of his presentation was “The Destructive Illusion of the Cult Family; The Challenges of Effective Exit Counselling.”

Micheal Bachelard then gave a very humorous account of his journey into exploring the world of the EBs titled “Reporting on Cults; Rewards and Penalties.” I’ve worked with him over the phone for some stories he’s run on scilons but never had the privilege of meeting him in person. Great guy.

Then there was some time to pose questions to all three, and we learnt some more from their answers.

Then we finished the morning session and walked to New Parliament House and had a few problems getting some folks in, the EB legal didn’t turn up but someone representing them did and snuck in to sit up the back near the door. I helped a bit to set up the cameras, had a quick bite to eat then sat down and got comfortable. Nick Xenophon said a few words of intro. to us all.

Pat McGorry spoke for a bit and mainly posed questions – he said that he was learning a lot from the day and he wanted to learn more. I noticed he’d been listening intently to each speaker and came across as a really sweet gentle guy who cared a lot about his fellow beings.

M. Georges Fenech gave a great presentation on how Miviludes came to be and what it actually does. He pulled no punches and said never to be swayed by social niceties when dealing with “deviant cults” as they really aren’t religious or self-help at all but simply ripping folk off. The charges Miviludes can level include “ a fraudulent abuse of a state of weakness.” Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it, eh?

We then had a chance to pose some questions and M Fenech gave some great answers.

Somewhere around here the DPP from SA was introduced as being in the audience and he got up and gave a few words then he and Nick went outside for a quick chat and then left.

Tom Sackville gave a very funny presentation filled with some very good observations and advice on dealing with politicians and bureaucrats when trying to get them to actually look seriously at an issue. He stated very nicely that you’ve got to help politicians get what they want, and how to do just that with relation to getting them to tackle cults. His title tells you lot of what he spoke about – “The Curious Refusal of the British political establishment to do anything to counter the cult threat.” He’s a former member of the British parliament and was even a Minister (I forget his portfolio) for a bit as well. Even his answers to questions were at times hilarious as well as insightful.

I was called up to do my speech and I swear my heart-rate must’ve been around 180 when I got ready to walk to the podium. Apparently it went well per what everyone else told me and I got through it all with no side-effects except a very dry throat. A large glass of water cured that.

Nathan Zamprogno then got up and told the heart-breaking story of how his wife just left one day and never came back, lost to a weird group that convinced her she was surrounded by witches and infested with multiple demons that needed exorcism.

Peter Flinn then apologized for Warren McAlpin not being there to give his story but Warren’s cousin John McAlpin got up and gave his story of expulsion etc. from the EBs. He assured us all that he’s a tough bastard and will keep going – I believe him.

Sen. Penny Wright spoke, Sen. Sue Boyce wrapped up the conference and told us how various politicians had dropped in during the day when they could and then Peter Flinn officially closed it all up. We all chatted to various folks for ages then went off to a dinner and chatted more. I left dinner at 9pm to pick up our intrepid cameramen who were enjoying themselves elsewhere and drove home, arriving home early in the morning very tired but happy and going straight to bed.

This is just a brief outline and you will really need to see all the presentations once they’re posted to get how much win there was that day. I wanna see them all again (except mine – too many painful memories attached to that.)
 

Jump

Operating teatime
Nice summary Scooter. I was just writing something up myself but I got some things out of order..


Nearly 100 people attended a conference to discuss responses to abuses and harm in cult-like groups. The attendees included psychologists, lawyers, politicians, teachers, students, ex-members of cults and affected family. Television and print media were also present.

Senator Sue Boyce opened the conference emphasising the seriousness of the topic in Australia today.

Professor Patrick McGorry spoke of the psychological abuses which occur and why they are harmful. Chronic depression and anxiety disorders are common in people leaving cults as they adjust to normal life where every decision is not made for them; the cult environment does not allow development of normal mechanisms to cope with life. These psychological abuses also become a drain on the health system.

Raphael Aron, a professional counselor for victims of cult trauma spoke of the controlling environment where people are coerced to follow narrow patterns of behaviour and thinking dictated by controlling groups. He likened this mechanism to the way terrorists can be coerced to kill themselves and innocent people by intense indoctrination. Bringing a person back to a normal life after they leave a cult is a slow and difficult process of adjustment; further draining personal and public resources.

Michael Bachelard, author and journalist for the Sunday Age and Sydney Morning Herald, recounted his difficulties faced in reporting abuses and irregularities perpetrated by cult-like groups. He spoke of the harassment and hounding he had personally endured, and greeted the Middletons' lawyer in the audience contracted by the Exclusive Brethren to monitor him. Mr Bachelard also shared how he had been personally uplifted by helping expose the abuses of cults and the many people who have been heartened by his public acknowledgment of their harsh treatment - including forced separation from their friends and family.

Dr Steven Mutch recounted the public policy decisions which had been made in this area which to date have been inadequate to deal with the issues. Personal trauma caused by cults and its prevalence has been known about by governments for a long time, yet nothing has been done. Law reform in the area of criminal law to address unconscionable psychological abuse needs to be discussed seriously at the highest levels. The 'Model Criminal Code of 1998' listed 'psychological harm' as a crime, yet this has not been entered into the statutes at this time.

Tom Sackville, President of FECRIS, a European network of people affected by cult abuses, told of the difficulties of implementing controls on these sometimes powerful cult groups. He agreed that abuses from controlling groups are prevalent in the UK and Europe. However, cult sympathisers can be found in key government positions. Therefore a strong political will is required to implement change. Mr Sackville cited the MIVILUDES system in France as an excellent example of how oversight of psychological abuses can be achieved through bipartisan support.

Georges Fenech from the French oversight body MIVILUDES spoke of the successes in prosecuting harmful practice of psychological abuse. He estimated that in France over 50% of the population knew of someone affected by cultic harm. Having a balance to the freedoms granted to religions is very important when 'religion' can mean so many different things in our modern society. While having no issue with particular beliefs, harmful behaviours are kept in check by the inter-ministerial MIVILUDES group. Only 31 cases had been prosecuted in the past decade, yet many other complaints had been received and referred for investigation. This has resulted in protection of citizens with no limitation of belief systems.

We also had three speakers tell harrowing personal stories of abuse, coercion and indoctrination by cults. The stories were harrowing and it was hard for many to understand how this level of abuse can exist in this country - with complete immunity from prosecution. The speakers were commended for their bravery in speaking out.

Mr Stephen Pallaras, South Australia's chief prosecutor, spoke to the meeting in answer to a question. He stated that with changing expectation of the community, laws needed to be changed in response. Harm caused by abusive cults was a perfect example where the law was out of step with the needs of the community and it needed urgent review.

The Conference also heard from Senators Nick Xenophon (Independent), Sue Boyce (Liberal) and Penny Wright (Greens). We heard that cult abuses are where domestic violence was decades ago - that is, some people will say 'don't interfere, its a private matter'. The time has come where this kind of abuse and manipulation is no longer a private matter - it is a genuine community concern for many reasons. This message needs to be heard by all politicians and given serious attention. Abusive cults need to be restrained from hurting families which are, after all, the fabric of our community.
 

Zhent

Leakus Maximus
Too tired to make a thorough postgame, but I would like to quick add/reinforce just how rounded this conference was. Politicians, policy experts, journalists, mental health experts, councilors, cult victims, all were represented and scrutinised the notion of a cult from all angles. Put together it is an explosive mix for busting cults and the conference surely will become prime reference material for doing so in the future.

Don't miss the conference videos when they are released!
 

FoTi

Crusader
Extremely good news! :clap::clap::clap::clap::clap::clap::clap::clap:

Thanks for posting. :thumbsup:

And thanks for all the hard work that all have put into this so far.
 

oneonewasaracecar

Gold Meritorious Patron
Here are some quotes from Tom Sackville.

...because if you have someone in charge who's going to make policy - a policy really of having no policy then that's going to affect every government department. [In] absolute contrast to Milivude, where you have every government department represented which is what we all should be aiming at. This is an excuse for government to have no policy to do nothing and it really comes down to the idea that it's too complicated to make the distinction between two organizations like the church of England and the church of Scientology. These people have tremendous intials after their name, but are not clever enought to do that.

Now, when you get to international civil servants, you can go a step further. Both George Fenech and I have attened something called the OSCE, which is meant to be a human rights body which meets in places like Warsaw and Vienna. The last time I was there and George was there he will remember there were about forty people around the table at the religious freedom meeting. Apart from the French Embassador, who represented George, the Russian Embassador, The German Embassador and me, representing this organization, every single person around the table spoke either for, or in some way apologizing for cults. It was absolutely extraordinary. So here you have a UN body about human rights pretty much taken over and infiltrated by cults themselves. There were people from Jehovah's witnesses, Scientology from all sorts of different countries all complaining that they were being bullied by anti-cultists and the people running the meeting, the actual officials of the UN body were actually trying to stop me using the word 'cult' because they had been got at - whether they actually believed it or whether their was somthing more sinister going on I don't know. We are in a difficult position...We've got a long way to try to turn it 'round .

Our best bet at FECRIS, which is the European-wide and is now wider than Europe...it is very important that FECRIS makes headway to make some headway and particularly with the European Commission, which is...we don't like it much but it is a law making body. Since only the French and possibly the Belgians as you've heard who've done anything in the whole of Europe about this, we really have to get a European-wide policy. That means lobbying. That means systematically lobbying the people in Brussels who sit in the European Parliament.
 

Kookaburra

Gold Meritorious Patron
Thank-you to everyone who contributed to this conference. It sounds like it will get some real results.
 

Jump

Operating teatime
I saw the speech by Georges Fenech, President of the French MIVILUDES on the CIFS website. It explains how the system works in France. They originally had a target-group model, but changed that to a behaviours-based model which I think is more correct and effective. Also, this approach can address all kinds of cult-abuses be they by groups fronting with self-development, commercial, educational, etc.

See: http://www.cifs.org.au/freedoms.php
 

oneonewasaracecar

Gold Meritorious Patron
IMHO, since WWII, the idea of criticizing someone else's religious beliefs became politically incorrect. Scientology and other cults have exploited this to such an extent that serious people are starting to take notice of the dangerous and manipulative nature of cults.

So too, have the events of 911. The attackers on 911 were essentially a member of a cult or cult-like group.

This conference marks the beginning of a shift away from tolerance of bad behaviour by cults under the guise of religious tolerance. Tolerance of bad behaviour is seen to have a cost.
 

Jump

Operating teatime
Let's all go to Brussels and lobby!

Buying bread from a man in Brussels,
He was six-foot four and full of muscles,
I said "Do you speak my language?"
He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich,


Yep, they will understand us :yes:
 

Gadfly

Crusader
Buying bread from a man in Brussels,
He was six-foot four and full of muscles,
I said "Do you speak my language?"
He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich,


Yep, they will understand us :yes:

For the uninitiated, see:

[video=youtube;b6oAFlPLGA8]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6oAFlPLGA8[/video]

The appropriate lyrics start at about :57 into the tune.
 
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