20-hour days, ‘suggestive’ massages: Inside Hillsong College
A former Hillsong devotee claims she was forced to work 20-hour days cleaning toilets at Sydney conferences, ordered to dye her hair blonde to conform and fend off suggestive massages from a pastor before she was ejected by the megachurch.
Yolandi Bosch, 33, said she has been left "traumatised" and suffering flashbacks from the time she claims Sydney church leaders subjected her to humiliating X Factor-style singing auditions which graded students into performance-related worship teams.
When she complained amid pressure to adhere to the church's strict conservative rules, she said she was ordered to leave and escorted off the Sydney Bella Vista premises by a church official.
Speaking out after signing a four-year non disclosure agreement which expired in 2016, she told The Daily Telegraph: "The church breaks you down, at first it's subtle, you don't realise but, speak up for yourself, or question the leaders, and you're singled out as a troublemaker and shamed into submission by being diminished into a lower serving class.
"I worked three days solidly for 20 hours from 6am cleaning toilets at their conferences.
"My time there was nine years ago and for only six months but they make you think you're crazy, I still get flashbacks and I've only just stopped crying," she said.
The interior designer from Sydney spoke out amid an investigation by church founder Brian Houston after New York Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz was sacked for having an affair with fashion designer Ranin Karim.
Ms Bosch joined the Sydney church in 2012 paying $4500 a term for Bible college including accommodation to share a room with four other students.
In her first week she was made to sing before a judging panel and allocated to the B (excellent) performance team for potential pastors based on her singing, presentability and looks.
"At these X Factor style singing auditions, you're judged on how you look, if you're chubby, your clothing, if you're good looking, confident," Mrs Bosch said.
"Almost immediately they started mentoring me, my tutor told me I looked scary and my hair was too dark and I should dye it blonde."
During conferences, which draw crowds of up to 10,000, she said she was forced to clean toilets for 20 hour stints with two 45 minute breaks.
"I joined the street team youth group which sends students to help in low socio economic communities. At meetings a pastor would come and massage our backs, he was really suggestive. He only did it to the girls, he made you shudder, he'd look at you a certain way," she said.
"Eventually I was called in by my tutor and given two choices - withdraw voluntarily myself, or get kicked out in five days and have my student visa revoked.
"They told me I should leave because I failed my conference course because I didn't finish cleaning the loos.
Ms Bosch has set up a Hillsong anti-exploitation group garnering 500 signatures from former bible college students calling for changes in its labour practices which she plans to take to parliament.
"I wish I had never joined Hillsong," she said. "So many students leave scarred from it. It was eye- opening, it was damaging, it's taken a lot to rebuild my life."
Hillsong did not return calls for comment.
Originally published as 20-hour days, 'suggestive' massages: Inside Hillsong College