The consequence of standing up to a cult leader.
Tuesday Talks with Lisa Hunt-Wotton
The 1970’s were not a great decade for me or my family. My parents had been members of the cult now for about four years. My father was becoming more disenfranchised with the cult and the with leadership who were gaining more and more control of his family. Of course at the time my parents didn’t think it was a cult, they thought that they were attending a progressive penticostal church that carried an exclusive truth that no-one else had. They were chosen and blessed.
My father had become a Christian in the early 60’s. My older brother and sister had been attending a local Sunday school and were praying for my Dad. My father came to faith and found great joy and freedom in his local church. By the time I came along in 1963 my family were attending the church of England in Brighton with good friends Richard and Gary Holland.
It was through the Hollands that my family met the Jacksons. Ray Jackson Snr, or Broer as he was known, was an American charismatic leader who started the pentecostal church group called ‘Immanuel’.
This church looked good on the outside, growing, thriving, confident and modern. But it had a darker side. You only came into contact with this darker side if you walked into the crosshairs of the leadership or if you disobeyed one of their commands.
At the time, 1969, my family were deeply involved with the cult. Both my older siblings were attending and living in full time at the rural bible school. My parents were running weekly house meetings and my mother was heavily involved in the worship and singing.
Ray Jackson was good at grooming women and young girls for his own pleasure. This is how we got into the crosshairs and became a focus for his control. My father was also becoming a threat as he began to question different things that were happening and began to object to the amount of control that Ray had over his family.
As a six year old things were obviously pretty hazy for me and my recollections come more from nightmares and ongoing stress illnesses that I suffered during this time. I do remember being lined up in our kitchen along with my siblings and mother. One by one in front of my father, we had to declare that Ray Jackson was the true head of our house and our spiritual father.
This I believe was the last straw for my dad who then attempted suicide. He told me that ‘if this was what it meant to be a Christian than he would give his life to satan’. My 16 year old sister found him in a coma from an overdose of sleeping tablets and called the ambulance. This tragedy of course was the leverage that Jackson needed to manipulate my mother. Convincing her that my father was evil and in the clutch of satan, Ray declared that for the sake of the children and our salvation, she had to leave my father immediately.
My father recalls him coming home from work one day and his family was gone. We had been taken, relocated and put into hiding.
I was seven years old and had no idea what was going on. I was told that my father had gone on a long holiday. I had to change schools, and all 5 of us were moved into a one room house with a lady from the cult who had agreed to take us in. My mother shared the double bed with the lady, my two sisters and I slept on the floor and my brother slept in the garage with the car.
It was a long time before I ever saw my father again.
It has only been in the last 15 years since leaving the cult that I have begun to restore a relationship with my now elderly father. It has been a long and painful process. He obviously has many hurts and rightfully so. I have a lot of feelings of abandonment and rejection.
As a child you don’t understand the complexity of adult plans and pains you just know that you are bereft, alone and confused. I just wanted my dad and he was gone and I didn’t know why.
My dad is 87 now. Time has enabled him to talk about things in a more mellow and reflective way. He has had a very difficult life which is a story for another day. There are many things that we are still learning about each other. Just recently he found out that I enjoyed painting. For his birthday I decided to paint a portrait of him. I took a photo of him sitting outside his shed, a favourite place he goes to sit on his walker and soak up the sun.
My father has been a jockey, a boxer and a boat racer. All adrenaline sports. To many of his friends this is what he is known for. In 2014 he was inducted into the Australian Boat Racing hall of fame.
For me as an artist this project was more about who he is now and where he is living in country Victoria.
He is facing the sunset of his life. He has lived a hard life and has been a hard worker. He has done many many miles and has many yarns to tell. He is an Aussie icon. He was unprepared for cunning, deception and shades of grey. For him life is simple and honest. He doesn’t like people who talk out of the side of their mouths. He finds joy in a sunset and in a job well done.
One of the last true blue Aussies who still speaks strine. He will ask you how you pull a quid, or if you would like a ‘bum nut’ for breakfast. When he answers the phone he says ‘you got me’. When you ask him how he is he will answer: “Like ten men love, like ten men”. He will refer to women as ‘good looking fillies’, and tell you that it’s time that you ‘hit the frog and toad’ and gets very excited when he buys a new ‘bag of fruit’ (suit). He would give you the shirt off his back and will always give you the benefit of the doubt.
He knocks off for a smoko, he drinks tea out of a tea pot ’till 5 and then moves on to the whiskey or watered down cask wine. He tinkers and he can fix everything.
Hey True Blue, can you bear the load
Will you tie it up with wire
Just to keep the show on the road
Hey True Blue
Hey True Blue, now be Fair Dinkum
Is your heart still there
If they sell us out like sponge cake
Do you really care
Hey True Blue
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