In early 1978 I returned to Australia, although to Melbourne instead of Sydney. I only had my brother as family in Australia, as we had been shunned as a family by other relatives for being scientologists, so I followed him. (Most of the others in the UK returned in a trickle over the years.) There was a period of culture shock for the second time in my life as I readjusted to the open spaces and different way of life in the country of my birth. I didn’t really know where to start or what I wanted from life, starting afresh at 25 years old.
The obvious connections I did have were scientology ones. Being an inherent optimist, I thought that perhaps the insanity I had lived in the UK would not be here in this far away country. I had also grown up in an environment of “them and us” where the only people you could really trust, who would really understand you, were fellow scientologists. So it was one of life’s crossroads and unfortunately I did not travel the unknown roads but returned to the life and belief systems I had been raised in.
As I had blown staff (unauthorised departure meaning I had ‘crimes’) in the UK I was ineligible to join again without a lot of ‘amends’ (making up the damage) to show I was trustworthy. So I started doing volunteer work for Citizens Commission Human Rights (CCHR) and the local organisation.
However this didn’t pay the rent, or in fact pay anything at all. The senior executive of the Guardian’s Office in Melbourne was Elaine Allen and I clicked with her immediately. I also became friends with her husband Laurie Allen and he decided to take me under his wing. He helped me set up a small secretarial business to service small businesses in his building and I began to feel more confidence within myself and hopeful for the future.
The CCHR work was mostly done in a tin shed in the backyard of the Melbourne org, and during the summer months this was hell on earth with temperatures over 40C, and freezing in winter. It was a converted house in Inkerman Rd, Caulfield and there wasn’t much room there at all. I did admin work for a year and a half and studied my Student Hat while doing secretarial work to survive, gradually doing less for CCHR and more for the GO as a volunteer typist. I remember with great fondness David Griffiths and Judy Bozan who worked tirelessly to ‘expose psychiatric abuses’ with an admirable passion. I didn’t agree that “all psychiatrists” were out to damage mankind, not at all, though I kept that to myself. I did agree that there were abuses, as there are in any system, and that was enough for my doubts to be silenced. In truth I really had not been educated much beyond the scientology approved boundaries.
I met my second husband during this time and we married within months, in October 1979. Scientology was going through the start of it’s “Out 2D” purges. (“2D” is the jargon for “Second Dynamic” and deals with family, children, personal relationships and sex.) What it boiled down to was “if you are having a sexual relationship you have to get married.” Our wedding was one of seven at that time, a wedding almost every weekend for a few months as couples made it legal! Scientology’s external public relations at work again.
My memory is a bit hazy on exact dates here, I know when it was deemed I had done enough “amends” I petitioned to be able to join staff again, and it was okayed, so I finished up my secretarial business and signed a 5 year staff ‘contract’ for the GO in Melbourne. I became pregnant and my husband took a second job to support us, he was also working on staff which paid next to nothing. We moved into a large bluestone building in Fitzroy that Elaine Allen rented, it had a lot of bedrooms sublet to selected staff…..her security as a senior executive had to be maintained.
I was happy during that time. Newly married, the anticipation of a child that I could actually raise and be a mother to, part of the ‘elite’ of scientology staff (by virtue of being in the GO) and a nice place to live. We were on the very top floor in an attic room, so the stairs were hard work as my pregnancy progressed, however the people there were like a family and we all had the common goals of scientology and it was a small price to pay.
Elaine and I would go out on Saturday mornings to the markets and plan meals for the coming week, in those early days we did actually often finish work at a reasonable hour and come home to eat. She also allowed to me take naps in the backseats of cars during the last months of pregnancy. Elaine had children herself and was as happy as I was about the baby, a stark contrast to what happened in the Sea Org (though I didn’t know that then).
Elaine Allen, son Shaun and Jose McLaughlin
In March 1980 the Melbourne org was burnt down, which was a tremendous shock. The GO blamed it on ASIO as we were ‘so successful”. I think only the top floors were destroyed and by some chance most of the PC folders were not harmed. The organisation then operated from five different private houses for quite some time, coming together a few times a week for staff meetings. My memory of that time is one of great team spirit and “making things go right” (a favourite scientology catch phrase) against the odds. “Rocky” was our theme – it was us against ASIO and the SPs out there who were trying to take us down! New premises were bought in Russell Street in the city in 1980 and the organisation started it’s new life there.
I worked until the day my baby was born and luckily was granted 5 weeks maternity leave. I had a wonderful homebirth, and it was just in time to be announced at Friday muster. My baby rarely slept more than a few hours at a time and became very ill when he was a few weeks old. I coped as best I could, my mum flew out from the UK for a few weeks which was much appreciated and the other people in the house helped as much as they could. I returned to work to find there was a big “flap” with everyone in the GO being labelled as “DB shits” (degraded beings) for some obscure reason and having to stay and study a particular policy letter until you ‘passed the checkout’.I remember feeling really sick, holding a newborn baby late into the night and feeling like it was my UK experience all over again. Well actually it was….