Mother of 13 quits Gloriavale regime

Former Gloriavale resident Sharon Ready (centre) with two of her 13 children, David and Constance...
Former Gloriavale resident Sharon Ready (centre) with two of her 13 children, David and Constance. Photo: Supplied
After 50 years inside Gloriavale, one of the community's longest-serving members has her first job on the outside and is attempting to remove the leadership while still living within the compound.

At age 64, mother of 13 Sharon Ready has challenged the norm and defied the leaders by leaving the grounds of the secretive sect each day to work at an early childhood centre in Greymouth.

She and husband Clem, who works in Greymouth, then return to the Haupiri Valley where five of their children remain - but they are no longer active members of the community.

"What she's doing is incredible, it's very unusual," said Liz Gregory, manager of the Gloriavale Leavers' Support Trust who has been working with the couple.

"Leaders would have normally thrown her or him out.

"It's like she's making a stand, making a point. She's defying the leaders and their wishes."

Ready was last week named as a plantiff alongside her eldest child John in a potentially landmark legal case to try to remove the leadership of the West Coast commune. Their lawyer alleged the current set-up was "breeding predators" and that members were "literally in slave labour".

Richard Raymond QC, who is acting for several defendants including leader Howard Temple, vehemently denied many of the accusations in the High Court at Christchurch.

Ready has faced extreme hardship in the sect over the years - in 2015 she was locked in an isolation room with daughter Prayer, who had Down syndrome, when she choked on a piece of meat and died.

In 2018, her husband was convicted of physically abusing two of their children - Prayer and another daughter Constance, known as Connie. The court heard he assaulted them with his hands or objects such as shoes or belts between 1998 to 2014, when they were aged between 5 and 17 years old.

Connie - who escaped from the community and reported her father to police - spoke to the Weekend Herald from her Rotorua home about her mother's courage in defying the sect, as well as her own personal journey.

Formerly known as MaryAnne Green, Sharon Ready joined the community when she was 14 with her mother and nine siblings.

They were invited by the leader Neville Cooper - aka Hopeful Christian - who knew the family through church circles, after Ready's father drowned in 1971 near Gisborne.

Ready and her son John who are plantiffs in a civil court case against the Gloriavale leadership....
Ready and her son John who are plantiffs in a civil court case against the Gloriavale leadership. Photo: Supplied
But over the years, each of Ready's siblings left, as did her mother. She is the last to get out.

Clem also left the community for about 18 months after his court case and moved to the North Island. He had started questioning leaders about an alleged sexual assault involving another member in the community, Connie said.

Sharon Ready's own disillusionment with the community started in 2016 after her son Luke was kicked out of the community.

"She never cut off communication with him," Connie said.

"She continued to talk to him and check up on him."

And when other children left, she did the same.

"If we needed anything she would go and ask the leaders for stuff for us.

"She was always getting into so much strife because she wouldn't just leave us. I think she just got to the point where she was like 'You can't keep telling me what I can and can't do. They are my children and I will never cut them off'."

Clem eventually moved down to Greymouth and Sharon started visiting him on the outside which again put a strain on her relationship with the leaders, Connie said.

"She was put under incredible pressure to cut him off and not talk to him."

Sharon's mother then had a stroke late last year and she visited her in the North Island, staying for three weeks.

When she went back to the community she was given an ultimatum by leaders to stop seeing her family on the outside or leave, Connie said.

"She was shunned and not allowed to do her day job in the kindergartens.

"She won't allow them to throw her off until she no longer has children there.

"She's been extremely stubborn.

"She said 'You can't kick me off the property, I live here'."

So Sharon moved from the shared housing she was in and into another property on Gloriavale grounds with John, his wife and their 10 children. They were joined by Clem. John had left the community in 2017 but returned to be with his family and challenged the leaders to allow him to stay on the grounds. He also has a job on the outside.

Connie said her father engaged a lawyer so the couple could stay while they save money to get a place of their own. She said her mother also wasn't ready to leave as Prayer was buried there and five of her children were still inside.

The Weekend Herald spoke to both Clem and Sharon as they were driving back to Gloriavale after work. They did not want to be quoted for this story although respected their daughter's right to speak about them.

Clem and Sharon Ready with 11 of their 13 children. Photo: Supplied
Clem and Sharon Ready with 11 of their 13 children. Photo: Supplied
Clem later provided a statement via Gregory.

"I am so blessed to be able to re-establish relationships with my family and I am very sorry for the harm I caused them," he said.

"I am not proud of my actions and I have spent a lot of time since leaving Gloriavale reflecting on my life. I want to thank those who are assisting my family and I to establish ourselves on the outside, and am looking forward to this new chapter in our lives."

Gloriavale did not respond to the Weekend Herald's request for comment.

Connie said she is now able to have regular contact with her mother after years of communication being blocked by the leaders.

"The cell service isn't very good in there but when my mum's out with my dad, she'll often give me a call.

"It takes me by surprise every time as we weren't able to do that. Every time I would try talk to her it was a real struggle and an emotional drain and the gaps in between would get bigger and bigger... I just stopped doing it."

And after years of dressing conservatively in a blue floor-length gown, Sharon is now wearing casual clothes again, Connie said.

"She didn't want to represent those people... She's dressing more like the person she is."

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