Alleged leader of cult works as psychologist
The Melbourne Age
October 17, 2010
A WOMAN accused of leading a cult that has damaged the lives of scores of people is working as a psychologist with vulnerable patients at a community mental health service in Queensland.
Natasha Lakaev’s Universal Knowledge organisation was offering courses until last year that prophesied the world would end in December 2012 and almost everyone except her devotees would die.
A former member of her inner circle, Carli McConkey, has told The Sunday Age that Ms Lakaev was physically violent and psychologically manipulative, and had persuaded her followers that she was the Queen of Atlantis, a reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and one of 12 members of the Intergalactic Council of the Universe.
Ms Lakaev is now working as a government-employed psychologist at the Ashmore Community Mental Health Service near Surfers Paradise.
However, after The Sunday Age raised questions about her history, Queensland Health agreed to investigate the claims against her, and invited ‘‘anyone with concerns’’ to raise them with authorities.
Ms Lakaev denies all the claims of her former followers, saying she did not run a cult, had never been violent, and the theological claims were merely ‘‘metaphors’’, adding, ‘‘this stuff has been taken completely out of context’’.
Complaints against her by former acolytes have been investigated once by Queensland’s health regulator, but no action taken. The national health regulator will not comment except to say Ms Lakaev ‘‘has current registration and is therefore deemed fit to practise’’.
Ms Lakaev’s lawyers wrote last December that she was working as a case manager.
‘‘A large proportion of her clients are often initially highly unstable with disorders such as schizophrenia, delusional disorders, major depression, major anxiety and personality disorders,’’ the letter said. ‘‘Forensic clients with homicidal backgrounds are also present on the clinic client list.’’
Ms Lakaev has faced criticism for more than a decade about the extreme practices on her courses, and accusations that she was a practitioner of ‘‘coercive persuasion’’ or mind control techniques.
Ms McConkey, who spent 13 years under Ms Lakaev’s sway and only escaped in January this year, said Ms Lakaev had hit her and exploited her.
Ms McConkey lived on or near Ms Lakaev’s northern NSW property, Omaroo, near Burringbar, for many years, and during that time handed over $140,000 and spent nine years working without pay in her office.
‘‘Natasha Lakaev should in no way be a registered psychologist,’’ Ms McConkey said.
Ms Lakaev’s business, Universal Knowledge, is styled as a new age personal development course. It has not offered courses since last year, but the program promises to cleanse the ‘‘cellular memory’’ of its participants and help them take the ‘‘next evolutionary step’’ by lifting them into the fourth dimension.
Ms Lakaev told The Sunday Age she had not worked with the business for many years.
However, she founded the business in 1999 and she is listed on the website as ‘‘guiding individuals and groups for over 20 years in cellular memory cleansing’’. It is based at her property and is run by one of her devotees, and she and her children own 75 per cent of the shares.
She begged The Sunday Age not to refer to her work at Ashmore. She said: ‘‘I don’t harm people, I’m really good at my job, my clients are fine, my patients are fine.’’
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