Member of controversial Geelong church charged with child sex abuse offences

A man connected with a secretive and ultra-conservative Pentecostal church in Geelong has been charged by police with multiple child sex abuse offences.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said on Thursday that a 36-year-old East Geelong man was taken into custody after he walked into a local police station to self-report his alleged crimes.

A member of a controversial church in Geelong has been charged with child sex offences.Credit:Paul Rovere

The charges include sexual penetration of a child under 16, three counts of sexual assault and possession of child abuse material.

The man, who is a member of the controversial Geelong Revival Centre, is expected to appear in Geelong Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

The church is headquartered in the Geelong suburb of Norlane but has branches all over Australia and in every continent around the world.

The Geelong centre and its affiliates have been led for decades by Pastor Noel Hollins, who is aged in his early 90s and exerts extreme control over the church’s affairs and its membership, both in Australia and overseas.

Geelong Revival Centre pastor Noel Hollins.

When contacted, Hollins said he was aware that a man was in custody. He said he could not comment any further because the matter would soon be subject to court proceedings.

The Age has spoken to more than a dozen former GRC members in recent months who have raised serious allegations about a range of incidents stemming from their years inside the church.

These include alleged incidents of sexual abuse not being reported to police, claims of brutal physical punishments on children, pressure on members not to seek medical treatment for serious illnesses in the belief that prayer would be sufficient and the forced separation of families if a member decides to leave the church.

Hollins preaches that contact with members who have left the church – who he calls “backsliders” – will endanger the salvation of those who remain part of the church.

Former female members of the church have spoken of women being regarded as second-class citizens because of rules that forbid them from giving sermons, propositioning men and wearing a white dress at their wedding if they have had sex before marriage.

Another man connected with a GRC-affiliated church in Newcastle, NSW, was last year convicted of aggravated offences involving the transmission of private sexual material via a carriage service.

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