4 Nov 2010

Notorious Australian cult, The Family, still flourishing despite child abuse

NOTE BY PERRY BULWER - August 16, 2009

The articles in this post refer to a small cult in Australia called The Family. This cult should not be confused with The Family International, formerly the Children of God, but also known as just The Family. The Family International was also at the center of a child-abuse scandal in Australia as well as several other countries. However, while these two cults are separate groups, the issues of child abuse and children's rights are very similar, as they are to all totalitarian religious groups. See this page for articles on The Family International: http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.ca/p/family-international.html


The Herald Sun - Australia August 16, 2009

Rein in Family cult


TWO decades ago, Victorians were shocked by revelations about children brought up in the notorious cult The Family.

The Sunday Herald Sun has revisited the main players to find the cult is still flourishing in the Dandenongs.

More disturbing is that cult leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne remains unrepentant about the cult's treatment of the children.

In 1987, Australian Federal Police and Community Services Victoria raided the cult's property.

They found that 14 children - many with dyed peroxide-blonde hair - had been brought up wrongly believing they were the children of Mrs Hamilton-Byrne and her late husband, Bill.

The children were allegedly subjected to a regimen of isolation, indoctrination and extreme discipline.

All Victorians should demand that such cults are closely monitored and that children are adequately protected.

This article was found at:


Children from The Family cult, revealing their peroxided hair and identical outfits.
The Herald Sun - Australia August 16, 2009

The Family cult's secrets exposed

by James Campbell

EXCLUSIVE: THE leader of Australia's most notorious cult, The Family, remains unrepentant two decades after the raid that shocked the nation.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne broke her silence yesterday, saying she was ready to die after reconciling with Sarah Moore, the "daughter" who betrayed her to the authorities.

The Family made headlines around the world in 1987 when the Australian Federal Police and Community Services Victoria raided the cult's property at Lake Eildon and took six children into care.

Police later found 14 children had been brought up in almost complete isolation believing they were the offspring of Hamilton-Byrne and her late husband Bill.

In fact none of them was the Hamilton-Byrnes', but children of single mothers who had been pressured into giving them up for adoption or cult members who did not want them.

But it was the way the children had been treated that really shocked the nation.

Hamilton-Byrne had ordered the children's hair be dyed peroxide blonde and they be dressed in identical outfits.

It was also alleged they had been half-starved, beaten and forced to take large quantities of tranquilisers to "calm them down" and even fed LSD when they became adults.

Now, in the first ever interview at her sprawling Olinda compound, the cult leader has defended how she raised the children and attacked those who said she mistreated them as "lying bastards".

Of her critics, she said: "I would love to put them right, but I can't."

She also said she could have sued for defamation, but had decided against any action.

Asked about whether she mistreated her "children", she said: "They were normal children and they could be disobedient to a point, but not all the time."

But she would not discuss any specific claims.

On the issue of alleged LSD use in the cult, she said: "Everything on earth has its uses."

And asked about whether she had any regrets, she would only say: "I've got regrets about losing touch with daughter."

"I'm ready to die now. I don't mind when I go," she said after an emotional reunion with her favourite "daughter" Dr Moore, witnessed by the Sunday Herald Sun.

Inside the compound - one of at least half a dozen properties owned by Hamilton-Byrne - elderly helpers scurried around, avoiding eye contact.

The "wrinkly disciples" wore coloured wigs, with heavy make-up, and are said to be among up to 50 cult followers who still defer to Hamilton-Byrne - some living on the property and others in surrounding hills.

From the moment she invited this newspaper into her home, the frail woman was at pains to show off as many happy group photos as she could, to prove her family was as normal as any other.

"We have our differences like any other family," she stressed, smiling.

The sole male on the sprawling, but crumbling estate was self-professed senior cult member Michael Stevenson.

Dr Moore, also known as Sarah Hamilton-Byrne, had been expelled from The Family two years before the 1987 raid for disobedience, with the curse that she go and die in the gutter, she claimed.

She later qualified as a doctor and volunteered extensively in India and other parts of Asia.

But four years ago her life began to unravel - she developed bipolar disorder. Suffering from chronic pain, she began self-prescribing pethidine, but was caught in 2005.

In December her life took another turn for the worse - she lost her leg, the result, she says, of hospital mistreatment following a suicide attempt.

Having survived, Dr Moore said she has regained her will to live.

Yesterday as she reunited with Hamilton-Byrne, Dr Moore became emotional as remembered their rift.

"I just feel incredibly sad about it," Dr Moore said.

"When I was holding Anne then, I could feel her shaking and crying. I thought 'Why did it have to come to this?' "

Dr Moore said she could not escape the fact that she looked on the 87-year-old as her mother.

"I do love Anne and my feelings are still mixed about her," Dr Moore said.

"For many years I went nowhere near her or the cult.

"I was a prominent part of the public face of those that wanted to expose what happened to us children and to see justice done.

"But, despite perhaps appearances to the contrary, at that time I felt enormous loyalty to Anne. To my mind, I had put my life on the line to oppose her, as I believed at the time that to oppose her, to betray her, was to die."

Dr Moore said she still believed Hamilton-Byrne was responsible for mistreatment of children, but she said the cult leader blamed the "Aunties" for any abuse.

"That's as far she will go in acknowledging any wrongdoing," Dr Moore said.

"Otherwise she is unrepentant. She is a powerful and charismatic person, and I believe she initially meant well with both creating the cult and collecting us children.

"Both acts were in compensation and delusional repair for her own childhood."

This article was found at:



The Herald Sun - Australia August 16, 2009

A twisted controller

by James Campbell

CULT members Patricia MacFarlane and Peter Kibby gave evidence outlining their role in The Family. Here are edited versions of their stories:


Raynor Johnson (the former Master of Queens College at the University of Melbourne) told me of this woman he had met.

He said that one day he answered the door to find a woman standing there. He said this woman's name was Anne Riley and she was spiritual being, or entity.

He said from that moment on he was enthralled by Anne.

In September 1967, my son, Adrian, was killed in a motor vehicle accident. My whole world was ripped apart.

Between one and two days later a woman appeared at our house. I realised she was the Anne Riley with whom Raynor was so besotted.

She believed I should undergo an "initiation" into "The Family".

The initiation was very simple and I don't remember any more of it. I think Anne may possibly have laid her hands on my head, but it was certainly nothing spectacular.

I vividly recall that Anne entered the Cotham Clinic, Cotham Rd, Kew, which was a private medical clinic.

Anne was an in-patient and underwent surgery for a facelift.

She summoned myself, (my husband) Don, John McKay and Elizabeth Whitaker to her bedside.

She told Don and I that we were to seek a divorce immediately.

She told Don he was to move into Elizabeth's house in Kew. She told (Dr) John McKay that he was to leave Jan and obtain a divorce immediately. John was to move in with me.

When I started working as a nurse at Newhaven, the majority of the staff were sect members. The day patients were there for Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT).

Newhaven specialised in the use of LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms), Deep Sleep Therapy and ECT.

Most psychiatrists used LSD and psilocybin.


I was a solicitor on Collins St in the early 1960s when I developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I was introduced to Anne through some friends and was convinced she could cure me.

I had two leucotomies - a form of lobotomy - at her suggestion.

I was very close to Anne and was responsible for her all her legal work, forging false birth certificates and adoption papers.

I knew all the inner workings of the cult's finances. But I became disillusioned by her in the late 1980s.

This article was found at:



The Herald Sun - Australia August 16, 2009

Painful justice

by James Campbell

LEX De Man, the policeman who spent five years bringing The Family cult leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne to justice, is still haunted by the case and its toll on everyone involved.

And while proud that Operation Forest, the taskforce on which he worked from 1989 to 1994, eventually secured her conviction for perjury, he is still angry Hamilton-Byrne escaped punishment for alleged maltreatment of the children in her care.

Mr De Man said Hamilton-Byrne was lucky the children who had endured beatings, druggings and starvation at The Family's Lake Eildon property were too traumatised to testify against their alleged tormentor.

"One girl looked like she was seven but was, in fact, 11. She was suffering from psycho-social dwarfism," Mr De Man said.

"I didn't think at that time - and even today - that many of the kids would be able to sustain giving evidence in the witness box. I think they'd been damaged too much."

The detective's decision to go after Hamilton-Byrne for falsifying documents came in 1991 when the cult's solicitor, Peter Kibby, decided to co-operate with police.

"Documents don't lie. People lie on documents. A document might be false, but it's a human being that puts the information on it," Mr De Man said.

Kibby then persuaded one of the former "Aunties", Pat MacFarlane, to make a statement.

After months of interviews, and later armed with the evidence to secure a warrant to arrest Hamilton-Byrne, police still took three years to find her.

But when he was told she had been arrested in the US, Mr De Man said he was overcome with emotion.

He then flew to New York where he was met by two US marshals, who handed over Hamilton-Byrne.

"She was a frail, old-looking woman without her wig," he said.

"Her first words to me were 'You're a lot younger than I thought you would be'."

Mr De Man said people were sceptical of the taskforce's success when it was established.

"When we started, people said to us 'You'll never find her and if you do, you'll never interview her, you'll never charge her, you'll never bring her back to this country, you'll never get her before a court and you'll never get a conviction'," he said.

"Four-and-half years later we found her in a joint operation with the FBI, we went and got her and we brought her back, fronted her before the courts and she pleaded guilty - even though the penalty was minuscule - $5000.

"In the end it was about the principle of justice."

This article was found at:



The Herald Sun - Australia August 16, 2009

Payout for The Family sect victims

by James Campbell

THE Family cult leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne has paid six-figure sums to two former "followers" who sued her for alleged damage done to them in their childhoods.

Hamilton-Byrne settled the cases for payouts of an estimated $250,000 each.

In the first case, Hamilton-Byrne's granddaughter, Rebecca Cook-Hamilton, sued her in 2007, alleging she had developed psychiatric and psychological illnesses.

She alleged the injuries were caused by the "cruel and inhumane treatment" she had received from Hamilton-Byrne and her servants, including beatings, being locked in a freezing shed overnight and being forced to take tranquilisers.

Ms Cook-Hamilton also alleged her grandmother failed to provide adequate food.

In the second case, cult survivor Anouree Crawford brought a case alleging she was beaten, starved and drugged.

Hamilton-Byrne is also being sued by a former cult member over an aborted property transaction in the late 1990s.

In a writ filed in the Supreme Court, Cynthia Chan alleges she paid Hamilton-Byrne $352,115 to buy a property in Olinda, but that she never transferred.

The writ also alleges Ms Chan paid Hamilton-Byrne $70,400 for another property, which was also never transferred to her.

Hamilton-Byrne said she had no recollection of the matter.

In the 1980s, police estimated Hamilton-Byrne's wealth at more than $50 million.

This article was found at:



The Herald Sun - Australia August 16, 2009

Creating the family tree

1961 ANNE Hamilton meets Dr Raynor Johnson, Master of Queen's College at the University of Melbourne and renowned authority on mysticism.

1961 (continued) Together they found The Family, a religion based on a blend of Eastern mysticism and Christianity.

1964 Dr Johnson buys land at Ferny Creek, where the cult builds Santiniketan Lodge, which becomes its headquarters.

1965 Hamilton-Byrne marries South African naval officer Michael Riley. The marriage does not last.

1960s The Family begins recruiting cult members from patients at the Newhaven private psychiatric hospital in Kew. The recruits are given heavy doses of LSD.

1968 Hamilton-Byrne begins adopting children with her "husband" Bill Byrne. Both change their surname to Hamilton-Byrne, but do not marry until the mid-1970s.

1970s She buys Broom Farm in Kent, England, and another house in the Catskills, New York.

1983 Australian Federal Police visit the cult's property at Eildon, looking for but not finding missing girl, Kim Halm.

1986 Newhaven hospital closes. The property is later the subject of a lawsuit between Anne Hamilton-Byrne and the descendants of a deceased cult member. She wins.

1987 Australian Federal Police raid the Eildon property, removing six children.

1988 Seven female cult members are jailed for defrauding social security of almost $200,000.

1989 Victoria Police establish Operation Forest to investigate The Family.

1990 Former cult solicitor Peter Kibby confesses to forging birth records on Anne Hamilton-Byrne's orders. Former "aunty" Patricia MacFarlane also gives details to police of her role in the adoption scams.

1993 Anne and Bill Hamilton-Byrne are arrested by the FBI in the Catskills Mountains, New York, after police traced calls made to Australia.

1994 Anne and Bill Hamilton-Byrne are extradited to Melbourne. They plead guilty to perjury through documents and are fined $5000.

2001 Bill Hamilton-Byrne dies. Anne Hamilton-Byrne attends his funeral in her only public appearance since she was convicted in 1994.

This article was found at:



Exposing the abuses and frauds of cults makes advocate a target for regular legal and physical threats


  1. Herald Sun - July 29, 2011

    ANNE Hamilton-Byrne, the former head of the Family cult, has made a secret out-of-court settlement with one of her alleged victims, who claimed he was routinely injected with LSD at her behest.

    Ms Hamilton-Bryne, who bleached the hair of children in the sect, and kept them hidden from the world, agreed to the settlement on Monday. Supreme Court documents show at least five former cult members in the past four years have sued the self-appointed mystic for treatment they claimed to have suffered at her hands or under her direction.

    It is believed Ms Hamilton-Byrne, who has dementia that her lawyers say renders her unable to remember the past, has settled at least two other actions and paid an undisclosed amount to shut down the legal actions. Ms Hamilton-Byrne - who lives in a suburban nursing home - also claims the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 destroyed documents relating to her activities and records of people at the Family properties. Court documents also claim other Hamilton-Bryne records were destroyed in a separate fire at Gembrook in June 2010.

    In this week's settlement, Robert Rosanove, now aged 59, claimed he was regularly abused between 1961 and 1974, when he was raised as a member of the Family in a range of locations in Victoria, including Ferny Creek. Mr Rosanove's statement of claim accuses Ms Hamilton-Byrne or her followers of subjecting him to abuse, including:

    FORCIBLY administering psychoactive and hallucinogenic drugs, including LSD.

    FALSELY "imprisoning" and "brainwashing" him.

    FORCING him to take medications not legally prescribed and involuntary admissions to psychiatric institutions.

    DEPRIVING him of "normal social interaction with other children and adults".

    Mr Rosanove said he suffers bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress, severe depression, anxiety and sleep problems as a result of the alleged abuse. The LSD doses were allegedly administered during "clearing" sessions and the sect teachings were a mix of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Ms Hamilton-Byrne's "own interpretations", court documents state.

    Ms Hamilton-Byrne, through her litigation guardian, denied the abuse claims. In her defence statement, Ms Hamilton-Byrne argued the courts should not allow Mr Rosanove's law suit to continue because it was too long ago. The Family's Lake Eildon property was raided by the federal police and child welfare officers in 1987 when six children were removed and authorities identified 14 children who had been raised by the cult. In 1993, Anne and husband Bill Hamilton-Byrne were arrested by the FBI in the Catskill Mountains, New York, and extradited to Melbourne.

  2. Battle for control as cult leader deteriorates

    by Chris Johnston, The Age July 22, 2013

    Australia's most notorious cult leader is close to death in a suburban Melbourne nursing home as remaining members of the sect she formed in the 1960s scramble for control, sources say.

    Anne Hamilton-Byrne, 83, led the infamous Melbourne cult, The Family. She has had dementia since 2007 and lives in a nursing home in Wantirna South. Police and legal sources and also former victims of the cult say Hamilton-Byrne is now incapacitated.

    From the 1960s she was the cult's head at properties in the Dandenongs and Lake Eildon where dozens of children, obtained through adoption scams were allegedly kept, treated cruelly and administered LSD.

    The children were told she was a living God and were taught extreme Christianity and Eastern mysticism. Their hair was dyed blond and they were made to dress identically.

    A child victim from the 1970s - now living in regional Victoria - recently visited Ms Hamilton-Byrne. The man, a Pentecostal Christian, said the visit was in the spirit of forgiveness. ''She is in her final lap,'' he said. ''As I walked in, she was asleep on her bed, and she woke up and started rambling about her dogs being burned in a bushfire. There is a total disconnect with reality.''

    Another person who has contact with Ms Hamilton-Byrne said: ''She is in ill-health. But she's holding her ground.'' Ms Hamilton-Byrne's financial and legal affairs are handled by two key supporters, Geoffrey Dawes and Helen McCoy.

    Mrs McCoy runs a wildlife rescue service in Gembrook and is also the principal of a school for disabled children. Neither would comment.

    Along with other key supporters, including Michael Stevenson-Helmer, Peter Lyall (otherwise known as James Buchanan), David Munroe and Olivier Mackay-Dalkeith, Mr Dawes and Mrs McCoy are directors of a company called Life For All Creatures, registered to Mrs McCoy's Gembrook home and live in the Dandenong Ranges. Ms Hamilton-Byrne was a director until 2005.

    Sources said a power struggle had emerged in the sect between Mr Dawes and Mr Stevenson-Helmer over a succession plan once Ms Hamilton-Byrne dies. Mr Stevenson-Helmer, a long-time member who is very close to Ms Hamilton-Byrne, denied she was near death.

    ''As a true yogi, Anne will go when she is willing and ready,'' he said.

    He confirmed the sect still worshipped in the Dandenongs. ''We meditate,'' he said. ''You surmise we are secretive but we have never hidden anything from you people.''

    The cult was originally broken up when Australian Federal Police and a state government agency raided the property at Lake Eildon in 1987 and six children were taken into care.

    In 1994 Ms Hamilton-Byrne and her then-husband were extradited from the United States to Australia to plead guilty to perjury - the only charges they ever faced.

    Since 2010 Ms Hamilton-Byrne's lawyers have used her dementia as a defence in several civil court actions by former victims trying to sue. All have been settled out of court for amounts around $250,000.

    The victims have sought damages for ongoing mental health problems from abuse and cruelty suffered, false imprisonment, mind control and use of drugs.

    In 2010 her physical health also began deteriorating after she fell and fractured bones.

    Ms Hamilton-Byrne still owns at least three properties in the Dandenongs, including the original cult headquarters on the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, and several overseas. Her estate is estimated to be worth between $10 million and $20 million.


  3. The Family's 'living god' fades to grey, estate remains

    by Chris Johnston, Senior Writer for The Age May 17, 2014

    Although she can walk and talk, according to former cult members, Anne Hamilton-Byrne, Australia's most notorious cult leader, doesn't talk much. A handful of acolytes still cling to the belief that she is a living god and visit her regularly, while behind the scenes her once plentiful assets and properties are being sold, transferred or given away.

    At 84, she is frail and isolated, cared for inside the dementia care wing at Centennial Lodge nursing home at Wantirna South, a long way from the messianic figure who ruled The Family in Melbourne through three decades from the 1960s.

    'She is lost in a regressed, demented state. Anne doesn't have to be a guru any more.'

    ''She's at least being fed,'' said former cult child and Hamilton-Byrne's ''adopted'' daughter, Dr Sarah Moore. ''She's very demented, rocking back and forth. Her only connection seems to be a plastic baby doll that she talks to and dresses.

    ''She is lost in a regressed, demented state. Anne doesn't have to be a guru any more. You can see the child she was and perhaps see how it all ended up in her grand but disastrous illusion.''

    Hamilton-Byrne has flashes of her old delusional self: a woman born Evelyn Edwards in Gippsland into a family rife with mental illness, who went to school in Sunshine and taught yoga in Geelong before starting her cult and positioning herself as a god.

    Recently, Dr Moore said, cult visitors to the nursing home showed her a DVD about eastern mysticism; when it finished she said to them: ''But I am still the one true master.''

    Moore, 45, suffers from a range of mental and physical illnesses that she partly blames on her horrific experiences, such as beatings, drugs and starvation in the cult, mainly in a house at Eildon, from birth until she was 17. She had one leg amputated above the knee after a botched suicide attempt and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. She suffers severe pain in her amputated leg's stump.

    She was taken from her teenage mother in Geelong by a doctor who was a cult member.

    She qualified as a doctor from Melbourne University after escaping the cult and has worked at the Austin, Royal Melbourne and St Vincents hospitals and Monash University as well as doing voluntary medical work in Thailand, Burma and India.

    Now Moore is confronting that which haunts her by calling for fresh scrutiny into The Family's activities from the early 1960s until 1993, when Hamilton-Bryne and her husband were arrested near New York.

    She said an inquiry into the Newhaven psychiatric hospital, which was in Kew, could reveal how The Family recruited members and sourced LSD. Staff at the hospital were cult members. She said the cult's adoption scams should be investigated - cult lawyer Peter Kibby confessed to forging false birth certificates and adoption papers. Dr Moore said the cult's assets should be seized by the state when Hamilton-Byrne dies and used for compensation to the cult's victims. Despite getting rid of properties, her estate is estimated to be worth more than $10 million. Land titles show she has given two properties in the Dandenong Ranges to a company she is linked to called Life For All Creatures, whose directors are all current cult members.

    continued below

    1. Please advise what doctor john McKay believed . What was his religious beliefs.

  4. The neighbouring properties in Olinda were cult headquarters. One was her home.

    Dozens of children acquired through adoption scams and cult marriages were imprisoned here and at a property in Eildon until an Australian Federal Police operation freed them in the late 1980s.

    The cult also owns a property in nearby Ferny Creek, on Belgrave-Ferny Creek Road, called the Santiniketan Lodge, designed by former devotee and architect Don Webb.

    ''To us it is a sacred place,'' cult member Michael Stevenson-Helmer told Fairfax Media. ''If you went in there you would feel it. It is our great divine responsibility to preserve it.''

    Stevenson-Helmer, who is related to former governor-general and prominent Melburnian Sir Zelman Cowen, is poised to lead what is left of the cult with Eltham man Geoff Dawes, the son of former senior cult member Leon Dawes and former cult ''aunty'' Helen Buchanan.

    Hamilton-Byrne's squad of ''aunties'' were the women in charge of the cult children. Buchanan later married another senior cult leader, James Buchanan, otherwise known as Peter Lyall, who died late last year.

    Stevenson-Helmer saw Hamilton-Byrne two days ago and said she was ''stable''.

    ''It is always wonderful to be with her,'' he said. He claims not to know anything about her assets.

    Dawes and fellow cult member Helen McCoy, of Gembrook - a wildlife campaigner and principal of a school in Wheelers Hill for disabled children - control Hamilton-Byrne's affairs.

    In New Zealand when a dangerous communal cult called Centrepoint was exposed and leader Bert Potter jailed on child sex charges in 1992, cult assets were seized by the government and given to victims for therapy, counselling, education or poverty relief.

    Dr Moore said the same should happen in Victoria. ''That way she can make a contribution to society.''

    A new inquiry into the cult would ''bring it up to the light'', she said.

    ''It is an indictment on the state that this thing continued for so long and was able to infiltrate the medical system. ''

    Fellow cult child Ben Shenton, now a Christian minister in Perth, said the reason The Family was able to procure children from state institutions and drugs from a research facility was because they were ''too untouchable''.

    ''The money is still there,'' he said.

    Former cult child Wayne Callister, meanwhile, has had allegations of being drugged and cruelly abused by cult doctor John McKay deemed ineligible by the child abuse royal commission. Dr McKay, 82, is a recently retired Ferny Creek GP.


    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. In deed it did go to the Royal Commission as a private hearing but not a public hearing. As Ben Shenton stated regarding a Royal Commission to para phrase child abuse and the fact that authorities had done little to explore how and why this cult was protected and by whom. Considering that senior cult members had connections with previous Australian Governor Generals. I am indeed suing this cult and hope to remove their financial abilities. Wayne Callister wcallister321@gmail.com.au

  5. Authorities launch review after links between notorious cult ‘The Family’ and Melbourne school

    by STEPHEN DRILL, HERALD SUN Australia JULY 26, 2014

    THE Education Department has launched a review after links were revealed between a Melbourne school for students with disabilities and notorious cult “The Family”.

    Cult member Peter Lyall was awarded contracts for architectural work on projects worth $8 million at the Monash Special Developmental School.

    The school is run by Helen McCoy, 64, a close friend of cult leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne who was subject to an Australian Federal Police raid over claims she fed children LSD, took them from their mothers under forced adoptions and kept them in near starving conditions.

    Ms McCoy told the Sunday Herald Sun she had never been a member of The Family, but confirmed she has power of attorney for Ms Hamilton-Byrne, 84, who has dementia and lives in a nursing home.

    The Education Department is reviewing how Mr Lyall was awarded a contract to design a $7 million redevelopment of the Wheelers Hill school in 2008 and a $1 million hydrotherapy pool in 2011.

    Ms McCoy said she declared her association with Mr Lyall at the time of the tender process.

    It comes as the school faces a Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission conciliation meeting on Tuesday.

    The school is accused of restraining disabled children and making them strip naked in front of each other after swimming in the school’s pool.

    Ms McCoy denies any mistreatment of children or that she was a member of The Family, which made world headlines when its Lake Eildon property was raided in 1987.

    “Decades ago I learnt meditation from Anne Hamilton-Byrne and attended an adult meditation group that she ran,” Ms McCoy said.

    “She and I have remained friends since. As her health deteriorated, I was named as one of her powers of attorney.

    “My association with Anne Hamilton-Byrne has never involved any children.”

    A copy of a VEOHRC complaint, dated January 25 this year, has been seen by the Sunday Herald Sun.

    “Children at times get changed at the side of the pool in full view. No dignity and privacy given,” the complaint said. “This has been the case at times when visitors or volunteers are present.”

    Besides the clothes’ changing issues, the complaint also raises concerns about using restraints on children.

    Disability advocate Julie Phillips, who is supporting two parents in their discrimination complaint at the commission, said: “These are some of the most complex and vulnerable kids in the community and some of them are non-verbal, so they cannot complain to their parents about their treatment even if they wanted to.”

    MSDS has more than 180 students with disabilities. It runs a kindergarten, primary school and secondary school on site.

    Ms Hamilton-Byrne’s estate, that still includes property in Olinda, is expected to be worth up to $20 million.

    Dr Sarah Moore, who was born into the cult after her young mother was forced to give her up for adoption in 1969, confirmed that Mr Lyall, who died last year, was a cult member.

    Dr Moore, who wrote a book about her experiences, said money from Ms Hamilton-Byrne’s estate should be used to compensate victims.

    Education Department spokeswoman Anna Malbon said the department would review the procurement process for the tenders awarded to Mr Lyall, but said the department had no evidence of the mistreatment of children at the school.


    THE children starved, while the cats ate pieces of steak.

    Poor handwriting was cause for a beating. A five-year-old allegedly wiggling her bottom while she walked was cause for a beating.

    Inviting someone in for a cup of tea was such an offence that the host was thrown out of the house, disowned and told to die in the gutter.

    continued below

  6. That was life in The Family a notorious cult than ran for decades in Melbourne until one woman, Dr Sarah Moore, managed to escape.

    Months later, in August 1987, Australian Federal Police used her evidence to justify a raid on the cult’s Lake Eildon property.

    Six children were removed by authorities over concerns about their care.

    Anne Hamilton-Byrne, a self-declared God, was at the centre of a circle of misery that she created to feed her ego.

    Now she suffers from dementia and lives in a nursing home, while disciples wait on the sidelines to claim a fortune of up to $20 million amassed from members’ hard work.

    Dr Moore still bears the physical and emotional scars from her time in The Family. She used pethidine to manage her pain, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar and lost a leg as a result of a suicide attempt.

    She said the children, many of whom were adopted in suspicious circumstances, were treated worse than animals.

    “Anne fed the cats and dogs real steak, while we kids were getting nothing,” she said.

    “If you got caught you were in trouble. The cats were seen as cult members who died but didn’t quite get it in a past life so they had not been reincarnated. Animals were higher beings than humans.”

    Hamilton-Byrne ordered the aunties, the name she used for her trusted cult members, to feed the animals good-quality food.

    “Anne never did anything physical in her life, not even make her own bed or get her own cup of tea, let alone feed animals and cook for them or us … that was what cult members were for,” Dr Moore said.

    Some of the children had their hair dyed blond to look like Hamilton-Byrne and were given LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs.

    Dr Moore said she believed that the hair colour was to confuse outsiders about the number of children living in the cult.

    “I think the purpose was to make us look alike so outsiders couldn’t tell difference when she was flying kids overseas ... that probably explains why most of us had several identities, passports and birth certificates,” she said.

    Dr Moore said she was aware of claims of sexual abuse, particularly against the boys in the homes in England and Ferny Creek.

    Hamilton-Byrne claimed she was the mother of the children in her care.

    But in fact, some of them were ripped from their mothers’ arms under forced adoptions; others were created when Hamilton-Byrne ordered them to have sex.

    One cult member was called the stud because he had fathered so many children.

    Hamilton-Byrne enlisted aunties, who ran schools on the sites of her homes, to keep the children under a strict regime of order and punishment.

    Any so-called misdemeanours or bad behaviour would be reported to the matriarch.

    At its peak there were 28 children at the Lake Eildon property, which opened in the mid-1970s, during Dr Moore’s time there.

    But she said there were four sites where there were children.

    Some of the adults worked two weeks in society and two weeks at the homes. Many were nurses who worked night shifts, offering their wages supposedly to further charitable causes.

    But the cash raised during her Thursday night sermons went into furthering her wicked empire and her life of luxury.

    She travelled around the world to her various properties, went on shopping sprees at Harrods and bought Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar cars.

    Following her release, Dr Moore did get in contact with her biological mother, and they are still in contact.

    She maintains some contact with former members. They are now angry about what will happen to The Family’s estate.

    “Ex-cult members should be able to apply for that money and it should be put in a central fund,” she said.

    see photos in this article at:


  7. Read the secret diary that reveals the bizarre beliefs of aliens, super human powers and twisted child mind control inside The Family cult

    by STEPHEN DRILL, HERALD SUN Australia AUGUST 22, 2014

    A SECRET diary uncovered after more than 30 years has revealed how notorious cult The Family trapped people in a web of fear and dependence.

    The 47-page document, obtained by the Herald Sun, shows how cult leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne convinced followers that she was Christ who had returned to save the world.

    Her cult was based on a mix of warped Christianity, Eastern mysticism and threats of alien invasions.

    Followers were ensnared from her yoga classes across Melbourne and through psychiatrists who referred on patients.

    The warped teachings included:

    * ALIENS were going to invade the earth to cleanse the world of evil.

    * NO-ONE should intervene if children were suffering because they should not interfere with God’s plan

    * HAMILTON-Byrne told followers that she died for a few minutes and rose from the dead to prove her power to a sceptical psychologist.

    * A FOLLOWER believed he was John the Baptist reincarnated, and,

    * MIRACLES were delivered during yoga practices.

    The diary was written by Raynor Johnson, an academic who lived at Melbourne University’s Queen’s College for decades before joining the cult on his retirement in 1964.

    It was kept hidden in a National Bank safety deposit box but was later given to one of the cult members who typed out the handwritten notes.

    Mr Johnson, who was a qualified physicist, left his job and followed Mrs Hamilton-Byrne believing that he was John the Baptist reincarnated.

    “I imagine some of those first disciples must have been when called upon to face the incredible reality that the long expected Messiah of the Jews was among them now,” he said.

    “The first disciples must have felt the same as I had felt. They were right, the others were wrong.”

    The cult made world headlines when it was raided in 1987 — the same year as Mr Johnson died.

    Under Mrs Hamilton-Byrne’s command, children were kept isolated at rural properties and forced to take LSD and other drugs in her search for enlightenment on their behalf.

    Many of the children were allegedly brought into the cult under forced adoptions.

    But the grip that Mrs Hamilton-Byrne had on her cult members was complete.

    Mr Johnson and his wife Mary bought a property at Ferny Creek in 1964 at Mrs Hamilton-Byrne’s request.

    The home they called Santiniketan, and which became a key base for The Family which included a chapel with seating for 120.

    The diaries also give an insight into what may have driven Mrs Hamilton-Byrne to devote her life to controlling others.

    She told Mr Johnson the grief over the death of her first husband Don was a punishment for being too close to him.

    As a result, she devoted herself to her version of God, which meant that she did not have strong attachments to anyone to avoid being hurt.

    “Anne said it was because she had attached herself too closely in love to Don; so She had to learn the hard way again, and God, by taking Don, had taught her,” the diaries say.

    Mrs Hamilton-Byrne, 84, is now living in a Wantirna South nursing home — a fight is expected to occur over her $20 million estate when she dies. She was only ever charged with perjury.

    read the diaries at:

    The Family diaries part one http://resources.news.com.au/files/2014/08/22/1227033/034639-the-family-diaries-part-one.pdf |

    The Family diaries part two http://resources.news.com.au/files/2014/08/22/1227033/040492-the-family-diaries-part-two.pdf


  8. Notorious cult 'Lodge' in legal battle

    By Chris Johnston The Age, April 7, 2015

    Sitting pretty on three hectares of prime Dandenong Ranges land at Ferny Creek is a brick hall called the Santiniketan Lodge. It was – and still is – the headquarters of Australia's most notorious cult, The Family, led by Anne Hamilton-Byrne.

    Now legal dramas over ownership of the infamous property have surfaced. It is worth an estimated $1.5 million; a local real estate agent who asked not to be named said: "It is an amazing piece of land, very unusual. It backs onto the Dandenong Ranges National Park. Most land around there is hilly with a lot of trees but this is flat, open and sunny."

    Cult members, through an organisation called the Santiniketan Park Association, are using a legal method called "adverse possession" to wrestle exclusive ownership from a small group including Hamilton-Byrne's daughter Natasha Hamilton-Byrne, who lives in Britain.

    An adverse possession claim means that users or occupiers of a property can lay claim to it after 15 years. "We expect the application to be granted," said the lawyer for the association, David Lucas.

    In the Supreme Court in 1999 cult lawyer turned police informer Peter Kibby tried to retain part-ownership of the property, which was bought with six cult members in 1968. Current Santiniketan Park Association secretary and cult member Geoffrey Dawes, the son of former cult heavyweight Leon Dawes, would not comment on the new legal bid. But fellow cult member Michael Stevenson-Helmer said: "It was owned by the association but the court deemed it wasn't a legal entity in the early years. So we set it up and now we have spent 15 years paying the rates to get ownership so it has taken time. It's very slow moving, the law."

    He said Natasha Hamilton-Byrne never contributed money to the building of the hall.

    Anne Hamilton-Byrne is 93 and has dementia. She lives in a nursing home in suburban Melbourne. Remaining members of the cult she formed in the 1960s have control over her legal and financial affairs. Her estate is worth an estimated $20 million.

    The cult held dozens of children, obtained through adoption scams, at Lake Eildon and in the Dandenongs from the 1960s. They were allegedly treated cruelly and administered LSD. Australian Federal Police and a Victorian state government agency raided the Eildon property in 1987 and six children were taken into care.

    The children were told Hamilton-Byrne was a living god. Their hair was dyed blond and they were made to dress identically. Cult members gave her money and property and remarried at her behest. Since 2010 Ms Hamilton-Byrne's lawyers have used her dementia as a defence in court actions by former victims claiming damages. All have been settled for amounts of about $250,000.

    At the cult's peak about 150 people would meet at Santiniketan Lodge every week; it had a throne for Hamilton-Byrne and elaborate sound and light systems installed, according to cult victim Dr Sarah Moore's book Unseen, Unheard, Unknown. "Anne was surrounded by a bluish light that created an aura around her," she wrote.

    Mr Stevenson-Helmer, who is related to former governor-general and prominent Melburnian, the late Sir Zelman Cowen, said a small group used it now for meditation and yoga.

    "In the good old days it was packed but now the world works its way and people are too busy or too tired or too old I suppose it happens to every institution or church as people get older."

    The inside of the lodge was still ornate, he said. "It is wonderful inside. It is our privilege to keep it as it was always meant to be."


    1. There were no 'good old days' unless you mean child sexual and chemical abuse. wayne callister

    2. agreed i want the truth


  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. This sect and it's members are nothing more than a group or arrogant, nasty ugly people.
    Who believe they have the right to ruin lives, steal, viciously torment and beat young children.
    Using powerful mind altering drugs accompanied with brutal violence and the most horrible forms of mental torture.
    These are some of the most dangerous and wicked people on this planet.
    Don't underestimate the pure evil that emanates from this small group of twisted minded criminals.
    Because at the end of the day that is all they are.
    Greedy criminals.

  11. From the Archives 1987
    Police raid on secretive sect "The Family"

    By David Elias, The Age, June 14, 2019

    [First published in The Age on August 17, 1987]

    Children taken into custody after raid on sect

    Police are trying to establish the identities of six children they have plucked from the bush hideaway of a secretive pseudo-religious sect where they have been kept locked away from society since they were babies.

    The six children, aged between 12 and 17, will be taken to the Children’s Court today to seek order for their care and protection under the Community Welfare Services Act.

    Meanwhile, Victorian and federal police will continue a long running investigation into the affairs of the cult, which is controlled by a mysterious 66-year-old woman guru who believes that she is a reincarnation of Jesus Christ and long dead figureheads from eastern religions.

    In a series of raids on properties owned by sect members and their guru, Mrs Anne Hamilton-Byrne, on Friday morning, police seized a number of prescription and non-prescription drugs of dependence, passports and photographs.

    According to police, the children are in a dazed and confused state, brought about by the sudden break from their life of seclusion in a house on the shores of Lake Eildon, where they have been raised under a strict regime by disciples of Mrs Hamilton Byrne.

    Over the years, the house has been home and school room to at least 14 children, most of whom were adopted by sect members on the instruction of the guru they call “The Teacher”. Most of them are now over 18 and some, on reaching majority, have left the group. It is understood they have volunteered help to the police investigation.

    Until ‘The Age’ carried out an investigation into the sect and the plight of the children in 1982, they were all made to have the same hair dyed blonde to satisfy a whim of Mrs Hamilton-Byrne, who always believed that they would lead a new order of humanity after a nuclear holocaust.

    The property is registered with the Education Department as a private tuition centre and, in 1982, a departmental inspector told ‘The Age’ that the children were well cared for, well clothed in uniforms and their educational standards were higher than normal for their respective ages.

    But, he said, he felt there was something strange about the set-up. They were regimented like the Von Trapp family of ‘The Sound of Music’ fame and each child when asked for his or her name immediately volunteered a date of birth. The officer said that while he had misgivings there was nothing which could be pinpointed to recommend d the registration should be refused.

    continued below

  12. After the publication of a story about the children, a question was asked in State Parliament and the then Minister for Education, Mr Fordham, said that there were no grounds for rescinding the registration.

    Mrs Hamilton-Byrne, the daughter of a railway worker, was born Evelyn Edwards in Sale 66 years ago, but claims she is younger and has tried to hang on to her youth and beauty with a number of plastic surgery operations.

    She formed the sect, known as “The Family”, in the Dandenong ranges more than 20 years ago, after meeting a former member of Melbourne University’s Queens College, Dr Raynor Johnson, who was a scholar of and author of eastern religions and, until his death, a fervent believer in the spirituality of “the Teacher”.

    The sect’s beliefs are based on a hotch-potch of Yoga, Buddhism and Christianity and a doctrine of reincarnation and total obedience to the will of “The Teacher”. Its religious rites are practised in a modern temple in Ferny Creek. The temple is protected by barbed wire, padlocked gates and electronic security.

    At its height, the sect had more than 200 members, predominantly middle-class professionals, who have worked slavishly for Mrs Hamilton-Byrne and have helped her amass a large number of properties in Australia, Europe and America.

    Mrs Hamilton-Byrne travels extensively between her various homes but, since ‘The Age’ published its investigation, she has spent little time in Australia.

    The sect’s practices have also had a long connection with the hallucinogenic drugs LSD and psilocybin and, in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, it had control of Newhaven, a private mental hospital in Kew where members were submitted to drug treatments, known as clearings.

    During these clearing, the subjects were supposed to have been take back into past lives so that they could establish a better understanding of the weakness in their characters and the reasons why they had been condemned to yet further tormented existences on earth.

    The drugs were usually administered by qualified medical practitioners who had been recruited into the group. When LSD was banned in the early 1970s the clearings continued, using whatever drugs were available.

    According to police, in Friday’s raids on two houses in the Dandenong Ranges, a small quantity of LSD was seized along with other drugs. Members of the groups have been interviewed about these drugs and passports in their possessions. No charges have been laid.

    The investigation by the Nunawading community policing squad was started more than two years ago and has been carried out in conjunction with the Federal Police. It is also understood that the sect is under separate investigations by both the Federal Police and the Federal Health Insurance Commission.


  13. Anne Hamilton Byrne leader of notorious cult The Family, dies at 97

    By Tom Cowie and Zach Hope, The Age, June 14, 2019

    Hamilton-Byrne, who considered herself the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, died in a suburban Melbourne nursing home on Thursday aged 97. She had been in palliative care after suffering from dementia since 2007.

    Her condition had rendered her unable to face further court action by survivors in the last years of her life. A class action of survivors was listed to proceed to trial in the Supreme Court in August.

    Hamilton-Byrne's net worth was estimated at one point to be about $10 million.

    Hamilton-Byrne founded The Family in the 1960s with Melbourne University academic Raynor Johnson, who served for 30 years as head of Queen's College. The apocalyptic cult blended yoga, drug-taking and Eastern mysticism with Christianity.

    Along with her husband, Bill Byrne, Hamilton-Byrne acquired children through adoption scams and imprisoned them at a house beside Lake Eildon. They were home-schooled, wore identical clothes and had their hair dyed blond.

    They were also dosed with LSD after being "initiated" at age 14. Starvation, beatings and brainwashing were common. At one point there were as many as 28 of these children.

    At one point the cult had hundreds of adult members, many of them respected middle-class professionals.

    One survivor, Leeanne Creese, launched a legal battle for compensation against Hamilton-Byrne in 2017, however it has taken two years to proceed to trial.

    According to a statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court, the "cruel and inhumane treatment" Ms Creese was subjected to left her with PTSD, including feelings of intense fear, helplessness and horror.

    Children also had their heads held under water, were administered large quantities of tranquilisers, and were not given medical treatment for serious illnesses including dysentery, court documents state.

    Before her death, lawyers for Hamilton-Byrne filed a defence denying all allegations against her. She did admit to having a group of children under her care known as The Family.

    The class action, which survivors must opt out of not to take part, covers the cult's activities between 1968 and 1987. It is understood up to seven survivors could be involved.

    Hamilton-Byrne owned property in Australia, including homes in the Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne, as well as overseas.

    continued below

  14. It is understood her estate has dwindled in part because of the cost of her palliative care.

    One member of the legal action, Ben Shenton, was taken in by the cult at just 18 months old and bore the abuse of Hamilton-Byrne and the "aunties" until he was rescued with the other children at the age of 15 after a police raid.

    Mr Shenton remembers his first night of freedom; the realisation he didn't have to go back, that he didn't have watch his words or feel scared anymore.

    On Friday, his feeling was relief.

    "The influence that Anne had over people, and the damage that was done ... it's good to see a chapter being closed," Mr Shenton told The Age.

    "I'm very saddened by the impact on people, some of them no longer with us, and some of us damaged.

    "There will be a lot of fallout from this, like any time when someone's had an affect on your life, let alone abuse.

    "There will be people today thinking about that impact, not wanting to, but being forced to."

    Hamilton-Byrne was never charged with anything more serious than fraud, which led to $5000 in fines. Police and prosecutors did not pursue potential charges of kidnapping, administering drugs and assault.

    Former Victoria Police detective Lex de Man, who investigated the cult and its leader, said he still had regrets that Hamilton-Byrne never faced justice on several allegations due to legal technicalities.

    "I shed not one tear today," he said. "Today for me brings to an end the life of one of Victoria's most evil people.

    "My hope is that those who suffered, the survivors who are the former children, if there's any way they can receive compensation for what they went through that should happen."

    Hamilton-Byrne was born Evelyn Edwards in Sale in December 1921. Her mother was mentally ill and her father itinerant. She taught yoga in Melbourne and Geelong and began the cult with Dr Johnson in 1962.

    Hamilton-Byrne fled Australia with Bill after the Lake Eildon house was raided by police. They had property in Kent, near London, and the Catskills region of New York. They were eventually found there after a joint Victoria Police-FBI operation and then extradited.

    "She was one of the world's most notorious cult leaders and one of the few women," said journalist Chris Johnston, co-author of The Family, a book investigating the cult.

    "She orchestrated one of the darkest eras in Melbourne's history."


  15. Does anyone know how I can contact Wayne Callister? He was one of the children living there. Thank you.

    1. If you scroll up through these comments and look for a comment dated 20 December 2016 there is a comment from Wayne that includes this email address: Wayne Callister wcallister321@gmail.com.au

    2. waynecallister358@gmail.com
      No journalists ,no rubber neckers and no one from the Moore or Callister families please.

  16. was there any documentation/name list of the 'aunties' that were involved?

  17. Thankyou. I found it after I commented. I hope his email is still active. Appreciate your help.