Address: Peter FLINN
President, CIFS Vic.
CANBERRA, Parliament House
November 2 2011
Conference Report and Video
"CULTS IN AUSTRALIA: FACING THE REALITIES"
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My name is Peter Flinn and it is my pleasure and privilege on behalf of Cult Information and Family Support (CIFS) to welcome you to what I believe is a unique conference. Here we are, in this historic building, for 60 years the bastion of Australian democracy and free speech, dealing with a subject which sits rather uncomfortably with these ideals. In fact, for many people it is almost a taboo subject, and historically, for politicians, a little too hot to handle.
This conference seeks to shine a light into some rather dark places, as we face the realities of cults in Australia, the challenges they pose to a free and open society which supposedly respects basic human rights, and the effects, often traumatic and horrific, on ordinary people who find themselves trapped in a cult.
What is a cult? The word itself can have a number of different meanings. For our purposes, a cult is an organisation in which there is misplaced or excessive devotion directed towards a person or thing, and which imposes excessive control over its members such that serious psychological and sometimes physical harm is caused to individuals and families.
A cult can be religious, self-development, new age, political, commercial and even family or one-on-one relationships.
The objective of this conference is to raise awareness among the public, and particularly among our parliamentary representatives, of the serious harm and abuse caused by cults in Australia, and what safeguards can be put in place to protect our society from this harm.
This is not a trivial issue. Whilst the very nature of the subject makes it hard to collect detailed statistics, in 2000 the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade noted an estimate of 500,000 people across Australia having current involvement in cults (including families and associates).
We want to see the Government refer the problem of psychological and emotional abuse caused by cults to the Australian Law Reform Commission, with a view to some appropriate legislative response.
Let me state categorically what this conference is NOT about. It is not about religious discrimination or vilification. We recognise and embrace the fundamentally important right to freedom of religion that we have in Australia. This issue is not about religious belief. Rather it is about behaviour. For too long, when challenged, cults have loudly proclaimed their right to religious freedom, whilst at the same time denying their own members the same right, together with other basic freedoms: freedom of thought, expression, education and association – especially with family members not in the cult - just to name a few.
We want to see an end to the standard political response in the past to myriads of letters written on the problem of cultic abuse. This has included a commitment to freedom of religion, and the recommendation to refer the matter to appropriate authorities if a crime has been committed. We believe that the many victims of cultic abuse, some mentally scarred for life, deserve better than this.
On behalf of the three State-based CIFS groups in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria who have organised this conference, I want to sincerely thank our co-hosts, Senator Sue Boyce of Queensland, Senator Nick Xenophon of South Australia, and their respective staff for their help, support and advice. The conference has faced some tricky obstacles over the past week, most notably the need to rearrange the program and utilise two venues due to the room we had booked in Parliament House being suddenly requisitioned by a Senate Committee. We apologise for the inconvenience, but we are confident that the conference will be a success. We have an impressive line-up of speakers, and there will be opportunities for questions, discussion and networking.
Just a few housekeeping issues: at the end of this morning’s session, delegates are requested to immediately proceed out the back door of this building, and make their way up to the "new" Parliament House. It is essential that everyone be at the main entrance to obtain their security passes by no later than 12.15 PM. Only those who are registered for the afternoon session will be able to attend, and it is unfortunate that the size of the allocated room means that that some late requests to attend will have to be declined. Lunch can be purchased inside Parliament House, and everyone must be seated in Room 2 R 1 so that we can make an immediate start on the afternoon session at 12.45 PM SHARP. There will be a 90 minute break between 2.00 and 3.30 PM to coincide with Question Time, after which the conference will continue until approximately 5.30 PM.
Finally, there are a few rules to be followed. The subject of this conference by its very nature can arouse emotion and passion. I ask that everyone remain calm and respectful during the presentations, and when there is an opportunity for questions or comments, wait until invited by the chair, then stand and state your name and affiliation before proceeding.
Thank you, I hope the day will be informative and helpful, and now I invite Senator Sue Boyce, Liberal, Queensland, to officially open the conference.
Disclaimer:This news page is about groups, organizations or movements, which may have been called "cults" and/or "cult-like" in some way, shape or form. But not all groups called either "cults" or "cult-like" are harmful. Instead, they may be benign and generally defined as simply people intensely devoted to a person, place or thing. Therefore, the discussion or mention of a group, organization or person on this page, is not necessarily meant pejoratively. Readers are encouraged to read widely on a topic before forming an opinion. Never accept information from a single source at face value. This website only holds a small amount of information and should not be relied on as a complete source. For example, if you find older information, this should be weighed up against newer information as circumstances can change.