Sect subject to scrutiny
The Sydney Morning Herald
Mar. 25, 2008
The general manager of the Royal Easter Show said he would not be surprised if a
cafe run at the event by a Christian sect was inspected by the state’s workplace
watchdog after revelations its workers were not being paid.
Michael Collins said officers from the NSW Office of Industrial Relations would
make inspections during the show and might examine the Common Ground cafe - one
of several restaurants owned by the Community Apostolic Order.
The Herald revealed yesterday that
former members of the messianic sect have accused it of harsh child discipline,
and of requiring members to put in long hours building and working in cafes
across the state without pay, insurance or adequate equipment.
“The industrial relations office have full access to all of the operators at the
show and it would not surprise me if they decided to look into them,” Mr Collins
“If someone is doing something wrong, we want to know about it so we can take
appropriate action. At this stage I’m not aware that they are in breach of any
laws, but if they are found to be doing something wrong, we will do something
An elder from the order said staff were not paid because they “work only for
love, like the disciples of old”. A worker at the cafe, who declined to be
identified, described himself as a volunteer. He said the workers had built the
two-storey structure housing the cafe at the show from scratch. It had taken
several weeks and was “pretty hard work”.
They had come from the order’s Blue Mountains cafe and would return there after
the show. He said they were given a day off each week.
Mr Collins said people attending the show need not be concerned about whether
the cafe was safe or hygienic.
“Every single independent operator at the show has to be structurally certified
before they are allowed to open, and every single food outlet has at least one
hygiene inspection by Auburn Council during the course of the show,” he said.
“They have to have workers compensation arrangements before we will let them
open and public liability insurance. We’re confident that patrons are safe.”
Allegations against the sect - formed in Tennessee in 1971 - have included the
beating of children with sticks. This is done on the grounds that “the rod is an
instrument of love” and that “you must make it hurt enough to produce the
One of the group’s Sydney elders, Peter Baker, declined to speak when contacted
by the Herald yesterday.
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