Photo of the Day

Melbourne cult ‘The Family’ was started in the mid-1960s by yoga teacher Anne Hamilton-Byrne and is well-known for the haunting similarities forced on the children to make them look like siblings ‘The tentacles of this cult were incredibly wide’: children who were in the cult The Family, at Lake Eildon. Photograph: Scribe Publications

The Family

‘Unseen Unheard and Unknown’

With its identically dressed blonde children and its use of LSD, The Family was one of the stranger outposts of the counter-culture. It’s got the children; it’s got the locations that are kind of dank and sinister but beautiful. It’s sort of like a Grimm fairytale.

Australia, 1987. Police swoop on a forest compound to rescue six abused children from The Family, an apocalyptic sect with the motto — unseen, unheard, unknown. Its guru, Anne Hamilton-Byrne, a beautiful Kim Novak blonde with an obsession for cosmetic surgery, has disappeared.

For 15 years, police received reports of strange home-schooled bleach-blonde children. But it’s only when Detective Lex de Man discovers children as young as 13 are being injected with LSD that police intervene.

For devotees, Anne Hamilton-Byrne is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. They change their names, sign over title deeds and produce children with partners selected by Anne. They even adopt babies stolen from teenage mothers under her direction. At least 28 children are collected to fulfil Anne’s dream of raising a master race to survive the apocalypse.

For five years, Lex de Man traces the money trail and discovers witnesses. He compiles 35,000 pages of evidence detailing criminal activity – illegal adoptions, multiple identities, false land transfers and social security fraud. He conscripts Scotland Yard and the FBI to track Anne and her husband on the run. In upstate New York, they stake out her Catskills property next door to the ashram of Swami Muktananda. In 1993, the FBI make their arrest, and Anne and her husband are extradited. But back in Australia, she hires lawyers to obstruct charges and the children are too traumatised to testify.

The frail 98-year-old founder of The Family – a cult that stole children through adoption scams and imprisoned them at a house beside Lake Eildon from the early 1970s until 1987 – has suffered from dementia since 2007, rendering her unable to face further court action by survivors. Sources confirm she was recently moved into palliative care at the nursing home.

“My only regret is she was never held totally to account for the misery she caused to the former cult children,” said former Victoria police detective Lex de Man, who investigated the cult and its leader after the children were freed from the lake house. He eventually helped track her down in the Catskill Mountains in New York state and had her extradited back to Victoria in 1994.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne and her third husband, Bill Byrne, an Englishman who has set up businesses in Traralgon, fled Australia after the Lake Eildon house was raided by police. They had property in Kent, near London, and the Catskills, and were eventually found there after Victoria Police’s Operation Forest joined forces with the FBI.

However, because of extradition conditions, as well as complex legal and moral issues, they faced only minor fraud charges in Melbourne, leading to $5000 in fines. Police and prosecutors did not pursue potential charges of kidnapping, administering drugs and assault, after deciding the vulnerable former cult children should not face cross-examination by the couple’s QC, John Winneke. “They were mean. They starved us. They beat us,” says Leeanne Creese, who lived in the cult from birth until she was 17. “They did all sorts of horrible things to us.”

Dr Sarah Moore, who was one of the first children taken by Hamilton-Byrne from a hospital with faked adoption papers, died last year, aged 46. She had suffered long-term mental and physical problems, which she attributed to an abusive and isolated childhood in the cult. She, like many in the cult, was repeatedly dosed with LSD in an initiation when she turned 14.

Moore’s biological mother was an unmarried teenager who put her daughter up for adoption in 1969. Moore was adopted by Anne Hamilton-Byrne, a charismatic yoga teacher who gathered a number of followers around her who believed that she was the incarnation of Christ. Moore was meant to be one of the “inheritors of the earth” after a holocaust took place. Anne Hamilton-Byrne had many followers who worked in the medical and nursing professions, and who manipulated the adoption process so that fourteen children were adopted by her. These children—including Moore—were told that Anne Hamilton-Byrne was their biological mother.

To some, Anne Hamilton-Byrne was a yoga teacher with a penchant for plastic surgery. To others, she was the evil leader of The Family — an apocalyptic cult with about 500 followers and more than 28 children. Some were the children of cult members, others were newborns that came from unwed mother tricked into thinking their babies were going to good homes, a few were out and out stolen, investigators say. Hamilton-Byrne was helped by members of The Family, who were doctors and nurses at a nearby hospital.  Many of the children had no idea who their real parents were until the cult was broken up.

It’s a dark story, and it’s got a lot of human frailty: how do people get involved in a cult, what draws them in, how do they do things that they would normally find morally reprehensible. It opens up a lot of questions that are universal rather than relevant only to this particular group.”

Founded in Ferny Creek in the mid-1960s by Hamilton-Byrne and the physicist Raynor Johnson, The Family flew largely under the radar until a former member went to the police with her tale of emotional and physical abuse in 1987.

The cult’s property on Lake Eildon was raided and six children were taken into protective custody. Like others in the sect, they’d been dressed identically when they were young, many with their hair dyed blonde and cut in the same bob style.

Hamilton-Byrne claimed the children were all her biological offspring, though many had in fact been spirited away from their birth mothers by a network of cult members working in the health system.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne pictured here with some of the children – holding hands with one of the bleach-blonde children.

The group is a cult that has had many adult members not just the houseful of children.

It was a religion that featured both Jesus Christ (of whom Anne Hamilton Byrne was “a reincarnation”) and elements of Hinduism, particularly yoga. Sarah Moore (Anne Hamilton-Byrne daughter) says that a morning (mandatory) hatha was often the only exercise the children got, and that they were kept in darkness indoors.

The cult had some involvement with a private psychiatric hospital in Victoria, called New Haven. This hospital closed in 1992. Relatives of patients said that New Haven used Deep Sleep “therapy”. Deep Sleep – à la Dr Ewen Cameron in Montreal –was the subject of a Royal Commission concerning Chelmsford Hospital, Sydney.

An odd thing about Anne Hamilton Byrne is that she did not spend much time with her raft of kids in Australia. She was usually overseas at one of her properties in England or in America such as one in the Catskill Mountains of New York where she was eventually grabbed by the FBI.

This is not to say the kids escaped the pressure Anne put on them. She was there via phone calls and by sending lectures on tape. She also had cult members known as “Aunties” live in Eildon as disciplinarians. The house was called Uptop. Life for the children at Kai Lama was unremittingly strict and even brutal. Anne Hamilton-Byrne herself was usually not there, so the children were supervised by women from The Family who were known as Aunties. These women disciplined the children by inflicting severe beatings for the most trivial reasons or no reason at all.

Another common form of discipline was the administration of prescription drugs that were obtained by the followers in the medical and nursing professions. These drugs were routinely used to pacify the children. When they were older, they could also be forced to take the hallucinogenic drug LSD as a kind of religious ritual. This was known as “going-through”, and was supposed to promote self-awareness, helping the person to let go of blocks. Moore was forced to “go-through” in 1984 when she was 15. The experience took place at a property owned by The Family in England and went on for some days because she was given repeated doses of the drug. She found it a traumatic experience and was later convinced that she had suffered lasting damage from the drug.

Another common disciplinary measure was food deprivation. The children lived in fear and were deprived of all love and affection. Despite this, they always hoped for some show of affection from Anne Hamilton-Byrne, who they believed was their mother, and who visited Kai Lama from time to time. They were also led to believe that the world outside was an evil and dangerous place, and that they would end up in the gutter (or worse) if they ever left The Family.

As Moore grew up, she became more assertive and began arguing with those who supervised the children, including Hamilton-Byrne herself. After arguing once too often, she was expelled from The Family in 1987, at the age of 17. She was then taken in by a family she had met. After a time, she was introduced to a private investigator, known only as Helen D, who had been investigating The Family for several years. From Helen D, Moore learnt that Anne Hamilton-Byrne was a fraud and that she herself was not Hamilton-Byrne’s daughter at all; she had in fact been adopted.

Helen D introduced Moore to two policewomen who won her confidence; this eventually led to a police raid on Kai Lama on Friday 14 August 1987. A number of children were taken into custody, then placed in care, along with Moore. This probably saved the life of Cassandra whom Anne had been starving to death. Sarah Moore speaks with approval of the way the state handled the liberation. She wished it had happened circa 1978 when police came out to snoop.

A number of Aunties faced criminal charges and were eventually convicted of fraudulently obtaining money from the Department of Social Security. In 1990, former group solicitor Peter Kibby started co-operating with police and confessed to forging birth records on orders from Hamilton-Byrne. Former auntie Patricia McFarlane gave information to police about adoption scams. Hamilton-Byrne and her husband Bill were overseas at the time; they were extradited from the United States in 1993 and faced criminal charges, but were only convicted of making false statements in regard to the adoption of Moore and other children. They were each fined $5,000.

The kids’ transition to reality was not easy. Anne was their mother, after all, and they were indoctrinated to adore her and to believe she had many supernatural powers.  Sarah Moore admits to having believed everything, or nearly everything. She craved her mother’s love, as all children do.

Some of those children have spoken out about Hamilton-Byrne’s attempt to build a perfect race through a collection of children — some of whom were forced to have their hair bleached blonde, were home-schooled on an isolated property and were injected with LSD as part of an initiation ritual.

The harsh treatment was carried out by some of the women known as “Aunties,” loyal cult members who lived with and taught the children. The children believed they were brothers and sisters and thought Anne and Bill Hamilton-Byrne were their parents until they were rescued by police and the cult was broken up.

“The Family” is also the story of the incredible determination of a detective in Australia and an agent at the FBI who joined forces to bring the Hamilton-Byrnes before a judge.

“My whole life was wrapped up in this investigation,” says Lex de Man, a former detective with the Victoria Police Department in Melbourne, Australia. He said “She is the most evil person that I’ve ever met.”

Peter Van Sant: Lex, for a man who has been emotionally as well as professionally involved in this case for so many years, to see this house for the first time, what has this day been like for you?

Lex de Man It’s been a tough day. …it brought back memories for me of some of the victims.

Innocent victims — children who had no choice — and true believers who de Man says fell under the spell of Anne Hamilton-Byrne, a one-time yoga teacher-turned-cult leader who convinced followers she was the female reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne sermon:  If you would learn how to tread the path of attainment, you must go to the one who has successfully passed through it.

Her cult was known simply as The Family.

Peter Van Sant: The Family still lives.

Lex de Man: Well, even today, The Family still lives in Australia. It still exists. There are still followers.

Now, some of the cult’s children are telling their stories of what life was like inside The Family’s fenced-in compound in Australia with its leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne sermon:  It is possible to make contact with the secret source of life, of the most high.

At the core of that life were Hamilton-Byrne’s mystical teachings. Each week, hundreds of her followers gathered at a lodge to worship Anne.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne sermon:  We get ready to enter the next universe.

Adam Lancaster: Under the influence of LSD, she had this vision that she’s got to collect all these children from birth.

Dave Whitaker: Because the end of the world was coming.

Adam Lancaster: Most of the population of the world’s going to perish … She was preparing us … to re-educate the world. What’s left of it.

Adam Lancaster grew up in the cult. Dave Whitaker had parents who were senior cult members.

Dave Whitaker: Only one rule — do absolutely everything she tells you.

There were 28 children in all, ranging from toddlers to teens. They only learned the truth of their lives much later.

Sarah Moore: The cult doctor arranged for my biological mother to be … drugged and made to sign an adoption form.

Sarah Moore, who had believed Anne Hamilton-Byrne was her birth mother, only learned the truth when she was an adult.

Adam Lancaster:  We all did look the same. We all had blonde, bleached hair. Not all of us. Some had red hair … because Auntie Anne was actually naturally a red headed.

Steve Eichel, a psychologist and an internationally recognised cult expert, says at its peak, The Family had branches in the United States and in multiple countries in the world.

Sarah Moore: During my birth, a pillow was put over her head, she was given major tranquillizers and as soon as I was born I was taken away instantly. She wasn’t even allowed to see — look at me.

Sarah Moore: I think she believed that the world would end in some sort of apocalyptic event and we would be so perfectly trained and so disciplined that we would be able to lead what was left of the world into the next epoch.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne sermon: Those who are devoted to me, they are united with me. Those who are not devoted, they don’t know me.

The cult is well-known for its illicit drug use – predominately LSD (Anne Hamilton-Byrne pictured)

The adopted children lived apart from the adult cult members in an isolated compound near Lake Eildon, about three hours outside Melbourne. The stark reality behind the images of a carefree childhood, the children say, was a constant fear of the woman they called mother, and the cult women she assigned to take charge of them.

The women that looked after us were called Aunties … They starved us. They beat us. They did all sorts of horrible things to us. The Aunties were to be avoided at all costs. …if someone wet the bed, they’d get … cold showers … one of the youngest girls … did not speak until I think she was 5.

At the age of 18 months, Ben Shenton was sent by his mother — a grateful cult member — to live at the children’s compound.

One of the boys … had asthma … he was wheezing, and snivelling. …So these nurses would put him outside in the cold at night.

One could never be sure what could happen next … we were frightened for each other all the time.

Because she travelled so much Anne left two books of instructions called ‘Mummy’s Rule Books.’ These books listed penalties for infractions. They had entries such as: “If David rocks or sways during meditation, he is to be hit over the head with a chair.”

Lack of activity was a feature. The kids seldom went out to play. Listening to tapes and praying and meditating took up many hours. Anne claimed to have supernatural powers.

The kids were terrified of punishment. They got belted. In the morning they heard the first screams from one of the boys who had wet their bed. The cane used had three corners, that is, each side of it was sharp. Food deprivation was also used to punish even the tiniest breaking of rules, or for giving an insolent look. It should be emphasised that this cult was not a preparation for life as a prostitute. Sarah hardly knew that sex existed. When she started to menstruate at 16. The girls were also instructed not to wash “down there.”

Anne Hamilton-Byrne told police that the children were all her natural offspring when they raided her property in 1987.

LSD was not illegal in the 1970s and was distributed to all the children at Uptop.

Sarah Moore about drugs:

“We would be given extra Mogadon if the adults thought we needed calming down The Aunties would say, ‘Have a Moggy, you’re feeling upset.’ We were also given Largactil, Stelazine and Tofranil. Often our food tasted strange and sometimes we would uncover little pieces of tablets or powder in it. When we questioned these findings, the Aunties would say, ‘It’s just something to calm you down.’

“The climax of each child’s drug-taking came in the sect practice known as ‘going-through.’ During this process, also known as ‘clearing,’ we were given LSD and a number of other hallucinogenic drugs. It was a state that was basically a sustained LSD trip. It was meant to clear your soul and take you to a higher plane of understanding and was perhaps the key to Anne’s spiritual influence.

“I had my first ‘go-through’ at fourteen and afterwards I was given Largactil, Haloperidol and Diazepam by Anne to ‘slow me down.’ One of the ‘foster’ girls, Mechalia, was also given Lithium because of her uneasy mental state.

“For a period of about six years, our daily vitamin dose was staggering. Each day we had to take twenty-eight yeast tablets, twelve kelp, two vitamin C, two white and one oily vitamin E, one desiccated liver and half a B-forte tablet. We took this size dose two and sometimes three times a day.”

Inside the bizarre 1960s cult, The Family: LSD, yoga and UFOs. ‘There are people out there who probably have a lot to answer for’: five boys with bleached-blond hair who believed they were Anne and Bill Hamilton-Byrne’s children. Photograph: Label Distribution

Very little of what Hamilton-Byrne said in lucid life was true anyway, including her name.

Born Evelyn Grace Victoria Edwards in Sale in 1921, the eldest of seven children, her childhood was troubled.

Her mother Florence spent most of her life in mental asylums, while her father Ralph was largely absent. She spent years in an orphanage.

Perhaps this created her urge to claim children through devious means involving corrupt doctors, nurses and social workers throughout the 1960s, dressing them identically with bleached blonde bowl cuts.

It’s just bizarre knowing what had gone on for years and looking around her room all these photographs of the blonde children, and her husband Bill, looking incredibly glamorous. There’s just something incredibly weird about this woman who has done so much damage, especially to children but also to adults, sitting there looking like a loving grandmother.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne did have one child of her own; a daughter, who was a young adult by the time Hamilton-Byrne started her cult. Later on, when Anne was in her 50s, she’d sometimes explain the arrival of new children by telling followers that she was their mother, and even took to wearing maternity clothing. She once told a young Dave Whitaker that she’d given birth to triplets.

The children who were adopted by Anne were all given the last name of Hamilton-Byrne and believed they were brothers and sisters. Anne even groomed them to resemble one another.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne is believed to have networked with medical professionals and lawyers in order to take the children from the hospital for her cult.

Sarah Moore asked, in her 1995 book:

“Why did she subject us to the bizarre and cruel regimen in which we grew up? Was it to demonstrate that she had the power to create a generation that would be reared with her beliefs and believing in her? I suspect perhaps that there were more sinister motives than these alone. Some of us had multiple birth certificates and passports. Only she knows why thus was and why we were also all dressed alike, why most of us even had our hair dyed identically blond.”

by Sarah Moore (Hamilton-Byrne)

Sarah Moore’s (Hamilton-Byrne) mother was Anne Hamilton-Byrne, the leader of a small sect in the Dandenongs called the Family or the Great White Brotherhood. I was a small part of her plan to collect children in what she herself once called a “scientific experiment”. Later I discovered it was her intention that we children would continue her sect after the earth was consumed by a holocaust. She saw us as the “inheritors of the earth”. I didn’t know that then. In those days I was just a child. A child of a guru, but a child no less.

Twenty-two to twenty-eight children in all lived at Uptop in its heyday, although the fosters had varying lengths of stay

She used to say that she couldn’t remember all the dates very well because she had so many children. Maybe, in retrospect, we should have realised that was weird but then we never thought it was anything out of the ordinary. She decided upon sets of twins and triplets and gave us ages and birth-dates to fit in with that idea. Birthday changes were just something you accepted. It was as if Anne knew so much more about everything than us and she just might be revealing another piece of our life plan if she changed our birthdays.

We were the children of The Family, the children of Anne Hamilton-Byrne. We were dressed alike. Most of the girls’ hair was dyed blond, cut into fringes and worn long with identical hairstyles and identically-coloured ribbons. All the boys had bowl haircuts.

Why did Anne collect all of us children and make this false ‘family’? I often wonder just what it was she wanted of us. Was it just to satisfy her ego? To satisfy her great need to be worshipped and adored by those around her?

Why did she raise us in almost total social isolation, miles from anywhere, with minimal contact with other humans apart from the sect members who looked after us?

Why did she subject us to the bizarre and cruel regimen in which we grew up? Was it to demonstrate that she had the power to create a generation that would be reared with her beliefs and believing in her? I suspect perhaps that there were more sinister motives than these alone. Some of us had multiple birth certificates and passports, and citizenship of more than one country. Only she knows why thus was and why we were also all dressed alike, why most of us even had our hair dyed identically blond. I can only conjecture because I will never know for sure. However I suspect that she went to such great lengths in order to enable her to move children around, in and out of the country. Perhaps even to be sold overseas.

I’m sure there is a market somewhere in the world for small blond children with no traceable identities. If she did it, it was a perfect scam. Many ex-sect members have said that they were aware that Anne was creating children by a “breeding program” in the late 1960s. These were ‘invisible’ kids, because they had no papers and there is no proof that they ever existed. Yet we Hamilton-Byrne children had multiple identities. These identities could perhaps have been loaned to other children and the similarity of our appearance used to cover up their absence. One little blond kid looks very like another in a passport photo. I don’t suppose we will ever know the truth because only Anne Hamilton-Byrne knows the truth about the whole affair and the truth is something she will never tell.

I find a lot of my childhood hard to remember. There seem to be very few incidents that actually stand out for me. I remember what our routine was but I don’t remember many individual days. I think this is because we had none of the normal milestones that mark the passing of the years for other children. We never changed grades or teachers. We never celebrated birthdays and it was only occasionally that we celebrated or got presents at Christmas or Easter if Anne and Bill were there. Life went on and now it seems that the only times that stand out were particularly violent ones. I try to remember things other than beatings and bad times and it’s quite hard. There must have been long periods when nothing, in particular, happened, bad or good, and we may have had ordinary child-like feelings of fun and excitement then, but these are mostly forgotten.

Because this all happened to me so long ago and because it was such a bizarre childhood, maybe I won’t remember every detail. Yet all the events that I describe DID happen and I will try to recount them with truth and honesty. I will tell the truth as best I can. I know Anne and Bill Hamilton-Byrne and their followers will not want to hear the truth from one of us and they will say I’m lying or I’m mad.

When I was little Anne used to sometimes slam a carving knife down on the bench while we were eating and scream at us that the next person to step out of line, or move, or be caught with bad manners, would get their ‘bum cut off’. It was a prospect that filled us with terror but it was just a ploy to keep us scared and under control.

Control was everything then. I’m generally not scared of Anne anymore though sometimes the fear of her and her followers still grips me. The motto of the sect is ‘Unseen, Unheard and Unknown’, and even now the thought of the consequences of betraying that motto still worries me sometimes. I ‘ve had death threats from sect members before. They may try to kill or hurt me for speaking out against Anne, but only under her direct orders. Many sect members have taken a vow to kill those who harm their Master. They will not walk up to me with a gun. But if I mysteriously drive over a cliff one night because my brakes are suddenly not working, or perish in a sudden fire in my flat, it will be them.

I am training to be a doctor but sometimes I think my medical career will be sabotaged because there are still many in the sect who have a lot of influence in professional and academic circles. It may sound melodramatic, but I know that some who were Anne’s enemies have disappeared in strange circumstances. But I will have to risk her anger and hatred because I need to speak about what happened, to tell with truth and certainty the story as it occurred. It is a story that must be told, and I will make sure that it will be, despite any danger to me. Because no-one knows the truth of what happened except those of us that lived through it. If I do not write this the story will never be heard.

It is hard now for me to explain what it was like to others. Six years later, it seems an alien world; often it feels unreal to me as if it happened to someone else. It takes an effort to tap into the memories and also the very different thought patterns that marked the way we used to exist. It takes courage to pierce the barrier of sanity and normality that I have carefully erected over the last few years so that I can function in the outside world. Because if I thought and remembered and dwelt in consciousness in that world we grew up in, I could not function today as I do. Yet this story cannot be told without at least some painful memories being involved, for without the pain there would be no Uptop – our background would merely be the harmless, slightly eccentric ideal that the Family always try to convey to the media.

I am not telling this story for revenge or because it is sensational. I am telling it because it is essential in the process of me growing away from my past. This is a story that I think needs to be told. It is in part also to come to terms with the reality that this, like it or not, was my past.

Perhaps once I tell it, I might be able to leave it behind me for good, and finally, the nightmares may stop. Then I will be finally free of my childhood, finally perhaps able to shed the shackles of fear and self-loathing that seventeen years of indoctrination instilled as part of my being. No longer will I be a prisoner or a victim.

Moore went on to study medicine and became a qualified doctor, working at a number of Melbourne hospitals. As a doctor, she did extensive volunteer work in India and Thailand (where she worked with Karen refugees on the Thai–Burma border), but still returned to Australia, where she carried on a medical practice in the Dandenong Ranges.

In December 2008, Moore was in a hospital and lost her left leg as a result of what she considered to be mistreatment by hospital staff.

In August 2009, she had an emotional reunion with Anne Hamilton-Byrne, which was covered by the Herald Sun newspaper. Anne Hamilton-Byrne, who was then 87 years old, said she was now “ready to die” after being reunited with her “favourite daughter”. The reunion took place at Anne Hamilton-Byrne’s sprawling compound at Olinda, Victoria. Anne Hamilton-Byrne said that people who accused her of mistreating the children were “lying bastards” and she would love to “put them right” but could not. She stated that she could have sued her critics but had decided against it. Moore said she loved Anne Hamilton-Byrne but had mixed feelings about her.

She still regarded Anne Hamilton-Byrne as being responsible for the abuse of the children, but Hamilton-Byrne blamed the Aunties. That was as far as Anne Hamilton-Byrne would go in acknowledging any wrongdoing, Moore said; otherwise, she was unrepentant. She described Anne Hamilton-Byrne as a powerful and charismatic person and thought that she initially meant well in creating the cult and collecting the children. These acts, she thought, were Anne Hamilton-Byrne’s compensation and “delusional repair” for her own childhood, which involved having an absent father and a psychotic mother. In a 2009 blog post, Moore said that she had decided to see Anne Hamilton-Byrne again after going through a form of therapy called the Hoffman Process, after which she thought it was important to forgive.

Moore became a Buddhist in 2009 after meeting a Buddhist lama who inducted her into the belief system of Buddhism. She said this brought her enormous relief and joy and meant that she was now rid of her burden. She felt she now had the support of a teacher/guru (the Buddha), the dharma (a word usually translated as “righteousness”, and denoting the righteous or spiritual path) and the community of Buddhists. This new belief system made sense of her life and gave her a perspective on things, particularly where she had gone wrong by taking on too much, spiritually and emotionally. Having found a guru whom no-one could find fault with, she felt that she had a psychological and spiritual support that she had lacked since she was expelled from The Family. She died in May 2016

Anne Hamilton-Byrne sermon: It is possible to make contact with the secret source of life, of the most high.

When growing up at Eildon the kids had no outside source or means of comparison, certainly no TV or newspapers. They did not go to school. There were 14 of them, adopted, and fosterings sometimes meant 22 or 28 lived together.

Secrecy may have been needed as the adoption papers were not according to Hoyle. A solicitor, Peter Kibby, later said he forged some of them. It seems that some of the babies were grabbed from mothers.

In 1993 Anne and her husband Bill Byrne were extradited to Australia but no charges were brought regarding the abuse of the children. They each got fined $5000 for some sort of fraud. Bill died in 2009. At present Anne’s wealth is said to be as much as $150 million but that figure may be way off.

All told, there were 28 children in the sect, 14 of them living permanently on the Eildon property. But there were also the children of members of The Family who were affected in some way. There are circles, ripples, different levels of damage in those kids.”

Today, 98-year-old Anne Hamilton-Byrne, the infamous founder of the cult is living out her days in a care home within sight of the forested hills where her insane reign took place. She no longer actively leads The Family, it is still active. It is estimated it has between 20 and 30 members “with varying degrees of loyalty” in Melbourne. There are branches in the US and UK too.

It’s extraordinary how many people you talk to who were part of it, It’s much bigger than you think it is.

A handful of loyal sect members still visit Hamilton-Byrne, and will no doubt benefit from the sale of her many properties when she dies, but no more children are held in thrall.

They are inspiring because their whole identity was removed from them, their birth families, even their birthdays. They had to rebuild that identity.

Several of the children are now parents themselves.

It shows incredible strength and resilience, maybe they want to say, to all sorts of people, not just those who were in a cult, but also those who have had a difficult background, that you can get over it.

You just have to work at it and be strong.

Unseen, Unheard, Unknown – Leaving Siddha Yoga

Sarah Moore (The Family) – Wikipedia

Unseen Unheard Unknown: Sarah Hamilton-Byrne: 9780140174342 …

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Anne Hamilton Byrne, Sarah Moore, and “The Family” – Gumshoe News

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The Family (Australian New Age group) – Wikipedia

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