Is Vanuatu ‘harbouring’ a wolf in sheep’s clothing?
The Vanuatu Independent
By Tony Wilson
November 30, 2018
IN 2015 The Independent published two articles concerning the identity and activities of Australian cult leader Debra Burslem.
Since then Burslem has continued activities in Vanuatu unabated. Her influence has now expanded to include the education of children through her Foundation Goodwill Schools. This should be cause for great alarm in Vanuatu.
With her reputation in tatters in Australia, Burslem fled to Vanuatu in 2007.
In Australia many children and families have been adversely affected by Burslem’s history of abusive behaviour (dating back to the early 1980s when she was encouraged to resign as a primary school teacher in Melbourne). This abuse has included: arranged marriages, bullying and coercion of parents as to how they should rear and educate their children, dictating if, when and how many children they should have, breaking up of families including encouragement to divorce, the removal of some children from their parents from Australia to Vanuatu and the continued coercion through fear causing followers to tithe, gift and provide for Burslem.
Every aspect of the lives of her followers is controlled. Followers have been divested of their traditional core Christian beliefs. True to her cult leader traits, Burslem has filled the vacuum with herself. These are just some examples of how she operates.
Since the early 1990s she has claimed to be God’s mouthpiece. She has deceived people into financing her lifestyle and numerous failed businesses. A conservative estimate reveals she has squandered in excess of Aud$20m since she began fundraising in 1993. For the religious minded this is a true definition of blasphemy – using God’s name to deceive others. For the secular minded this is simply self-enrichment through deception.
exploiting Government and private funding
In Australia Debra Burslem has a track record of exploiting Government and private funding by having her followers form incorporated associations to win grants to purchase equipment which is placed at the disposal of Burslem. This contravenes the law regulating incorporated associations in Australia.
With her reputation in tatters in Australia, Burslem fled to Vanuatu in 2007. She feared the Australian Taxation Office and other government agencies.
The Foundation Goodwill Schools are yet another attempt by Burslem to ingratiate herself with the people of Vanuatu and infiltrate the minds and hearts of Vanuatu’s children. Without her residency and citizenship in Vanuatu, Burslem has no other country of permanent residence apart from Australia. She is a fugitive with a trail of deceit, fraud and destruction.
Burslem’s spending sprees include: property purchases, several Mercedes Benz cars, jewellery and accessories, world-wide first class travel and accommodation, several failed multi-level marketing and Ponzi-style investment schemes, including a fraudulent Aud$1.8m gold bullion scheme.
Burslem’s followers were unaware
Between 2001 and 2003 Burslem’s followers were obliged to invest in Global Bullion Services. At the time Global Bullion Services was a known scam and Burslem was in direct contact with its director and founder, Sam Kingsfield. A US citizen, Kingsfield himself was a fugitive from the law. His US assets had been frozen. Burslem’s followers were unaware of these facts. Kingsfield had offices and clearing houses in the Bahamas and Vanuatu.
Burslem was receiving commission for every $ she collected on his behalf. With nearly Aud$2m handed over, Kingsfield disappeared, never to be seen again. Burslem’s followers lost their money. Burslem took no action to trace Kingsfield or assist with any enquiry as to his whereabouts or to retrieve the funds. Instead she told her followers that it was their greed that caused God to be angry and that’s why they lost their money.
Burslem’s manipulation and deceit
Through Burslem’s manipulation and deceit followers have lost their homes, life savings, marriages, children, grand-children, families, friends, livelihoods, income, inheritances and belief systems. Many incur debt and even sell their homes in order to satisfy her increasing demands.
Burslem requires her Australian and overseas followers to visit Vanuatu several times a year. She obliges them to bring cash and goods into Vanuatu. Some followers are also obliged to relocate and purchase businesses in Vanuatu.
Over the years, many followers have left her cult. Others want to leave, however they are fearful of her doomsday predictions. Parents fear something will happen to their children if they do not continue to follow her. Burslem has instilled this fear deliberately. Those who leave are shunned by those who remain in the group. This practice of shunning is typical cultic behaviour.
there is significant suspicion of fraud
A leak from Burslem’s inner circle in Vanuatu reveals that since 2015 three major Australian banks have closed Burslem’s accounts in Australia. Banks are obligated to undertake this type of action where there is significant suspicion of fraud, scamming or money laundering. Without Vanuatu’s continuing protection and hospitality towards this conwoman, Debra Burslem would be forced to return to Australia.
If the Government of Vanuatu continues to allow Burslem to operate schools in Vanuatu, the good people of Vanuatu should be very cautious and not be duped by the promise of free education where there are strings attached.
Burslem’s influence is ultimately destructive.
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