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Making Complaints Against Cults and High Demand Groups
July 2016
CIFS Summary


Making Complaints Against Cults and High Demand Groups

How can I complain if I have been unfairly treated?

CIFS suggestions for avenues to consider ...

It can be useful to bring a complaint if you are not happy with how things have been done and/or you or someone you know has suffered harm.  Especially if you feel your rights or privileges have been violated, or the perpetrator has been deceptive and manipulative.

In a cult-like environment that has a network of control-mechanisms over its members, abuses can occur and easily continue with impunity.

A complaint can have several outcomes.  It can raise the awareness of authorities of the group's practices.  It can lead to investigation or inspection regarding abuses and thus apply some long-missing scrutiny to the practices of these groups.  It can lead to practices being eradicated by compliance orders or legal actions.  It can possibly lead to recompense to the victim.

Complaints bodies are many and varied and have their own area of interest or jurisdiction.  A complaint must be specifically in the purview of the complaints-body for a complaint to be taken on and not shunted elsewhere.

An activity may require several specific complaints to be lodged to different bodies for an activity to be addressed adequately.  Some complaints bodies will act in co-ordination with each other to produce a satisfactory outcome, but this is not the general rule.

Criminal acts:
Criminal acts include such things as theft, abduction, false imprisonment, embezzlement, assault, child assault, sexual assault, threats of violence, extortion and conspiracy. Reports of criminal acts should be taken to the police who will investigate and prosecute if the evidence allows that.  Other actions such as a Restraining Order can be implemented.

Misconduct by Registered Therapists:
If you believe a registered therapist has offended against ethical or professional standards, these complaints can be taken to the relevant professional association, AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) or the NSW HCCC (Health Care Complaints Commission).

Misconduct by Unregistered Therapists:
If you think a therapist acted unethically or unprofessionally and the therapist is not a registered professional, you can still take a complaint to the above bodies for advice.

Unsafe or Misrepresented Products:
If you have a complaint about a product that was unsafe or misrepresented to you, you can complain to NSW Office of Fair Trading or equivalent state authority.

General Loss due to Negligence or Harmful Practices:
If you wish to make a legal claim for damages, these can be made through a solicitor by taking a civil action.  This path can be costly, but some lawyers will undertake a firm case on a no-win-no-payment basis.  These cases can get prolonged and complicated due to tactics of an abusive and well funded defendant.

Harassment, Discrimination or Bullying in the Workplace:
These complaints must be made directly by the person affected or with their direct consent.

Within SafeWork NSW, changes have occurred over the last few years to the definition of 'workplace'.  A workplace can include situations with no formal contract and even volunteer activities.

The 'employer' is now defined as a 'person conducting a business or undertaking' (PCBU).  These complaints can be taken to SafeWork NSW, the Fair Work Ombudsman, The Human Rights Commission or the Union if the worker is a member.

Unsafe or Harmful Practices in the Workplace:
Within SafeWork NSW, the 'Workplace' definition in the above section applies.  The PCBU can be an owner, manager or person in charge.

The provisions apply equally to 'employees' and 'volunteers' as the definition has been broadened to include any person acting under direction of a PCBU.

If a PCBU is involved in harmful or abusive practices that harm a worker (generally any person acting under direction), a complaint can be lodged with SafeWork NSW.  Harms can be physical, psychological, short-term or long-term.  For example, if a worker is prevented from speaking with family members after leaving a workplace, (e.g. 'shunning', 'disconnection') this can be a longterm psychological harm. 

Workplace practices can be investigated and compliance orders issued to bring practices into line with regulation.  Compliance would be monitored.
The contact number for the SafeWork NSW complaints hotline is 13 10 50.  People can also lodge a complaint by email at
More information is available on the SafeWork NSW website here.


You are welcome to contact CIFS who can provide some experience and support, and suggestion for professional help or specific contacts.

Please think clearly first about what it is that concerns you.


What do I need to make a complaint:

  • Detail of the harmful practices, deceptions or abuses.  Who was harmed, where, when.
  • How the events were harmful to you (or the person involved) specifically - financially, physically or psychologically.
  • The person responsible for the harm.  Employer, PCBU, manager, therapist, other leadership role.
  • Suggestion of what you think would specifically have to happen or change for the harmful practices to stop.
  • What you need specifically to feel OK about it - possibly the practices ceasing.

Any relevant information, witnesses, previous examples would be helpful.



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.
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