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Tuesday, 10 October 1972
Page: 1385

Senator KEEFFE (Queensland) - I want to raise a matter of importance in relation to a certain gentleman in north Queensland who has been exploiting islanders, in particular, over a lengthy period. I mentioned this matter to the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood). I think he has probably received correspondence from me concerning Dr Nielsen.

Senator Greenwood - Yesterday the honourable senator sent me a telegram asking me to cancel this gentleman's bank account.

Senator KEEFFE - I sent a telegram to the Attorney-General yesterday and I sent him a detailed letter very early this morning. It went straight to his mail box and undoubtedly straight to his office. If he has not had an opportunity to peruse it I trust that he has been able to take some action on the telegram at least. I point out that our friend Dr Nielsen - the gentleman to whom I have referred - claims to have some qualifications. We are not sure where he obtained his religious training but he leads a church known as the Universal World

Church. This church is based at the Australian Workers Union hall, Denham Street, Townsville. The founder-pastor is Dr Nielsen. I shall mention some of the things he claims he is able to do. He claims that we can experience the miraculous annointing of the holy spirit of resurrection power and see the most beautiful sight in any church, the regal splendour of the transubstantiation robes. The transubstantiation robes are made mostly of satin but some are of a much cheaper material. The learned gentleman claims that he is a prophet of God whose message on life and the science of the body is unquestionable, and that his power in God, even to the raising of the dead, is unquestionable.

He suggests that people attend the Universal World Church where every disease, affliction and pain disappears and where divine help and healing flow into the bodies of every believer as God's body is incarnated within the whole entity of man. He claims that he has international experience in 40 countries, including Russia, and that this qualifies him for any type of ministry. Dr Nielsen says that he is an international director of the Universal World Church in Los Angeles and that he is patron of the UPF African Church. He says that he is the founder and President of the fastest growing church in Australia. 1 might say that this person has been operating in the northern parts of Australian for some years. In published documents he claims to have converted 750 persons during the last 18 months. Conversion is by immersion, lt is said that in the Townsville area he has 300 adherents. To my knowledge there are only 3 white persons associated with this church. At least one of these has died recently in mysterious circumstances, that is, in the last few months. In my view he is a very evil man. He has preyed and battened on the emotion of Torres Strait and other island people and on a limited number of Aborigines.

Dr Nielsenhas allegedly collected large sums of money for the construction of a church which, to date, has not materialised. When he is questioned he claims that he has sent some of this money to America. We are not quite sure how he obtained his doctorate, probably in divinity. We understand that he corresponded with some overseas church and as a result of a short correspondence course he was granted the title of doctor. He claims to have offices in 3 or 4 countries. He has quite a number of addresses. He has an address at Post Office Box 1335, Townsville. He claims an address at 2249 West 24th Street, Los Angeles, California. He claims an address at 80 Balham Park Road, London, and he claims to be international director of the Universal World Church.

Senator O'Byrne - He claims to be everywhere.

Senator KEEFFE - Well, he says he is God. He claims to have an address at 9 Davis Street, Redcliffe, Queensland, and another at North Ward, Townsville. I mentioned a moment ago that he claims to be a prophet of God, a faith healer, with power to raise the dead. In my view Dr Nielsen is a charlatan preying on the emotions of decent people. Incidentally, he has 3 groups of people: Messengers, priests and other general offsiders. When any of these people dare to question his authority they are immediately demoted. Many people suspect that tens of thousands of dollars have been collected by this man. No receipt is ever issued. I claim that he has a very bad influence on the several hundred islanders with whom he associates.

Senator Poyser - Does he pay tax on his collection?

Senator KEEFFE - No, as far as we know no income tax is paid either. This is why I appeal to the Attorney-General, under Commonwealth company legislation - he is allegedly registered as a corporation - to prevent any money leaving Australia. At this moment there is a definite break in the church, if one can call it a church. When all else fails he casts an evil curse on people. This is not really a laughing matter so far as Islanders are concerned because they are very spiritual people. Many of them are closely associated with the Christian Church. A few of them are Hammond Islanders who are normally Catholics. Many of them are Murray and other Islanders who are normally followers of the Anglican Church. Some very prominent people in the Anglican Church approve completely what I am doing this evening because of the tremendous damage that has been done to these people.

He tells his followers to reject modern methods of medicine, and where antibiotics have been prescribed for very ill people they are told to throw the drugs away and to drink only the olive oil which is blessed by him in his church in the Australian Workers Union hall. The regrettable part of this is that 10 days ago a middle-aged Islander died. His family feels that he died because he was subjected to sorcery by this alleged leader of a religious organisation. This man and his quasi religious teachings have created a great social problem. He has divided families and caused bitter quarrels among relatives and friends. His insistence on the regular payment of moneys to the church at a rate beyond that which families can economically afford has led to many cases of physical hardship.

Let me cite the case of a Mr X and his family. I will not state the names of the Islanders involved but they are available if the Attorney-General wants to follow this matter through. I sincerely hope that he will. A respected Anglican priest or I will be able to give him the names of the families which have been affected grievously by this man's activities. The breadwinner in this family, who is in regular employment, has produced no money for the keep of his family from the day that he joined the church. Not only does this man demand 10 per cent of their net income per week, but from time to time he places on the. family a special levy of up to ยง25 a week. As most of these people are not craftsmen - they are mostly labourers - their average weekly wage would not be much in excess of $40 a week.

I contend that the great number of people who follow this man and his church do so out of fear - fear of the unknown and fear of sorcery. In our community there is room for every church but there is no room for an organisation which leaves its adherents virtually penniless and in a state of subjection because they dread the spells that may be cast upon them if they do not comply. I will not go into great detail about all his other alleged qualities and the other things that he has done. There are many more that I could recite. A number of us have watched the activities of this man over a number of years. Recently, respected trade union leaders have told me that on jobs where there have been industrial problems he has had a tendency to get one of his messengers to go on to the jobs and provoke the people belonging to their race to continue working. He is not directly involved. A messenger in this church gets a nice little enamel badge and a type of uniform to wear. So far, the Islanders have been very strong in the face of this and they have not broken down. The obvious reason why this man is doing this is that he cannot afford not to get the $5 or $10 a week that the Islanders have to pay him out of their weekly wages.

I have attended a couple of his so-called religious ceremonies. To attend one of them is tremendously frightening. The Island people are a highly spiritual people. They believe in a God. Because colourful ceremonies are associated with this man's fake church, they are inclined to be carried away. Partly because of this but largely because of the fear of what will happen if they do not do this, they comply. This man will tell the breadwinner of a family that if he cannot convert the rest of his family and make sure that they go to church, he must throw out his family. There have been instances in which families have been thrown out. I hope that the Attorney-General will be able to say that the many tens of thousands of dollars which have been received without receipts being issued and socked away in banks in Townsville and probably in other places too, can be frozen, until the whole background to this very strange character is investigated thoroughly. I hope the Commonwealth police will be able to do this. If they cannot, there must be ways in which the State police can be requested to do so by the Commonwealth police. I merely ask for action.

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