Mum tells of life in 'brainwashing' polygamous cult
THE mother of four intellectually disabled sons she gave birth to while living in a secret, polygamous North Queensland cult is hoping to give them an opportunity no one else will.
Tamar Joha has bought an old-style food van to do up so her sons, who have a genetic condition called Fragile X Syndrome, can indulge their love of serving people.
The Sippy Downs mother tried to find them a job volunteering in coffee shops or bakeries, but no one was willing to give them a go.
"They like making coffees and giving them to people and I tried a few places for them to volunteer, but because of all the legal sides they didn't want to,"Ms Joha said.
"So I have decided to do it myself and bought a little food van which I hope to do up so they can get experience and social skills in serving people.
"They get a real joy out of handing people something."
Ms Joha escaped the cult, known as the Jesus Group of North Queensland, with nothing more than the clothes on her back and her youngest son six years ago.
At that time, she had to leave her eight other children behind with their father.
Five of her children have the Fragile X Syndrome, though she has only been able to gain custodianship of four of them.
Through a complicated Supreme Court battle, she is able to stay in touch with her 17-year-old daughter.
Her other children want no contact with her, which Ms Joha understands as she believes they have been indoctrinated.
"It's hard to describe, when you are in it. It is hugely brainwashing, they are so convincing," she said.
"You get institutionalised. I am just starting to get out of it."
She was 46 when she left and spent the first six months in women's shelters.
She hopes her daughter will be able to leave before she turns 18 and has to get married to one of its members, as she did when she was 17.
"I had only just turned 17 and I was looking for a bit of adventure so I went up to Cairns. I was vulnerable and I met these people on the streets, handing out literature," Ms Joha said.
One of the leaders told the fragile young women he had a "vision from God" she should marry a man five years her senior she had only met twice.
"We had our first child when I was 18 and we kept on having children after that."
The cult's founder, Daniel Landy-Ariel has admitted to having two wives.
Despite the fact it was clear the couple were carriers of a genetic condition which caused Fragile X, Ms Joha was banned from taking contraceptives.
And because the children were home schooled, they slipped through the system
"They never went through the public system where they could get all the help they could have," she said.
For 28 years Ms Joha was part of the cult before she finally built up the courage to escape.
"Things were getting so bad for me and my family one day I ran up the river and right out in the bush and asked if people could give me a lift to town.
"They only had room for me and my youngest son. I told the other children to meet at a certain place the following day. When I got there, the father was there."
Ms Joha believes she only gained custody of her four sons, aged between 32 and 14, because of their disability.
Her sons, Matt, 14, Sum, 21, Shemy, 28, and Aaron, 32, were all given religious names, as is the custom of the cult.
And despite the fact they need constant care, she still sees the as an absolute "blessing".
"Things are good now. We are very thankful to live here," she said.
She volunteers at a Maroochydore Fusion Op shop and hopes the food van will give her sons a new outlet.
Op shop manager Mike Smith hopes people will be willing to help Ms Joha with donations so she can paint the van and get it on the road as she has spent the last six years building a new life from scratch.
Anyone willing to help can visit the op shop at 95 Aerodrome Rd.
She also still has her faith in God, although she admits it is "confused and mixed up".
The Jesus Group cult has about 300 members, with communes in Cairns, near Gympie and the NSW town of Parkes.
THE JESUS GROUP OF NORTH QUEENSLAND
- ● It is a secretive society where members give up all their rights and income to be part of the group.
- ● It is led by Dawid Daniel Yosep Abishai Yokannan Landy-Ariel, known as Daniel Landy-Ariel, and has communes in north
- ● The group has communes in Cairns, near Gympie and the NSW town of Parkes, but its existence has remained largely a secret. It is estimated to have about 300 members today
- ● The cult made headlines in 2011 when it was discovered it had been housing one of Australia's most wanted killers, Luke Andrew Hunter.
- ● Members take on biblical names. Hunter's name was changed to Ashban Cadmiel
FRAGILE X SYNDROME
- ● It s a genetic condition that causes a range of developmental problems including learning disabilities and cognitive impairment.
- ● Males are usually more severely affected by this disorder than females.
- ● Most males and about half of females with fragile X syndrome have characteristic physical features that become more apparent with age.
- ● It is also known as Martin-Bell syndrome