a sheep or two, a kangaroo, a clothesline out the back…


“…a veranda out the front, and an old rocking chair” – “A Home Among The Gumtrees” by B. Brown & W. Johnson

Welcome faithful readers, thank you for being here today.

In the past week I have been taken into a deep dive of knowledge about New Religious Movements, or what are more commonly known as “cults”. There is a deep, negative, and rather disturbing connotation that comes with referring to a group as a cult, and for that reason I will be saying “new religious movement” as my studies have recommended.

A new religious movement is a group that holds beliefs that are unorthodox or different from those commonly accepted by society. These groups often hold extreme beliefs, usually demonstrating extreme devotion to a person, idea, or thing. There are four Common Ingredients in a NRM, and they are as such:


1. They have a charismatic leader

2. There is a transcendent belief system in place

3. There is a system of control

4. There are systems of influence.


I was assigned to look into a certain new religious movement for my humanities 12 class and asked to identify a known NRM as an NRM via these traits. The new religious movement that I decided on was The Family (Australia). Not to be confused with The Family International, which a completely different new religious movement, though I’m sure it is probably equally as disturbing.

THIS IS A CONTENT WARNING. If you have gotten this far and though “yeah alright cool” I’m here to make sure you know what you’re actually in for.




Now that you’ve been informed, allow me to tell you a bit about The Family and why it can be classified as a new religious movement.

The Family was a doomsday cult started in the early 1960’s during a time in which people were rather vulnerable and in search for meaning and faith in their lives. The world was in a state of unrest, with government officials being exposed, Americans fighting in war, birth control and rebellions and young people protesting the Norm popping up to change everything. This sort of unrest and vulnerability allowed for many new religious movements to pop up during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

The Family was started by a woman by the name of Anne Hamilton-Byrne in Melbourne, Australia. She began her following in the early ’60’s by convincing unhappy wives to leave their husbands and join her as they found a way to be happier. Divorce was not a popular action at the time, but many women did so anyways. Anne Hamilton-Byrne was highly charismatic, and followers said she had eyes that could stare into your soul and draw you in.

The basis of her following was such a story as this: the world would be coming to an end, and the people that followed her would be there to teach whoever survived. Anne Hamilton-Byrne claimed she was the female reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and that she was going to help them. She lured in many women, and began a collection of children.

Yes, her aim the whole time was to collect children. She managed to collect around 28 children, and had their hair cut
the same length and dyed platinum blond. This was to create the allusion of sibling hood between the children of her followers and her few adopted kids, and she had them all refer to her as mother. Some of their real mothers would act as “aunties” and look after the kids at their compound at Lake Eildon. The kids were told to and believed that Hamilton-Byrne was their mother, and their real mothers were required to break all ties and emotional connections from their kids.

The kids were disciplined greatly, and punished severely for things they did wrong. This was a system of control that allowed fear to be stricken into them enough for them to follow orders and not go running to the first stranger they saw to tattle. The punishments were harsh: having their heads held under water, their hands held over burning candles, and when Anne was in town, being beaten by her with her stiletto shoe. Yeah. Ouch.

Another system of control, as well as a system of influence was drugs. And not your average 1960s hoohah with
marijuana. Younger members (under the age of 14) were given consistent doses of Mogadon and Valium to keep them docile, while members ages 14 and up were given excessive amounts of LSD in rituals called “cleansing” that could result in trips that lasted for days.

The people in The Family felt like just that, a family. A system of influence is often along the lines of peer pressure, but when it came to The Family, the pressure on most of the members, on the children at least, was just that of a dysfunctional family. The kids didn’t know any better, it was how they grew up. They truly believed that Anne Hamilton-Byrne was their mother, and also the female reincarnation of Jesus. The older members, while unhappy with some of the things they had to do, cut ties with their kids in order to stay in the presence of Jesus reincarnate, and they did so even when they had to do things they didn’t like (like abusing kids…)

The Family was disassembled by police in August of 1987, and the members of the group were sent back into regular society. Anne Hamilton-Byrne received no time in jail for her crimes, but was fined $5000 for feigning papers in relation to some of the kids. The people who were released back into society struggled deeply from their time in the group. They learned that they weren’t actually related to their siblings, that their mother was not their mother, and that they had been living a lie. They were then released back into the world to integrate. Many of the ex-members struggled with this, and -as not surprising by their abuse, history of drugs, and overall treatment- ended up struggling with mental health issues such as depression and suicidal thoughts.

The Family was a new religious group that I believe deserves the title of Cult. It has the four ingredients, and fits into the correct destructive trait requirements as well: members are excessively devoted, their are subject to physical and mental harm, the relationship between members is controlled, and there is isolation from society.

I think the thing that really jarred me about this particular group was both how horrific these people were being treated, and how close to home it was for me. I have connections to this group I never expected, (no, I was not alive in the 60s, 70s, or 80s, but that is besides the point) and it is hard to hear that a place you spent many holidays was once home to a cult where kids were beaten with high heels and someone convinced real people that she was Jesus incarnate in return for their children.

Anyway…. Hope you enjoyed this post, but not too much because that’s creepy. Be careful out there, it’s dangerous and absolutely  N O T   C O O L .

Thanks for reading, hope you learned something new and interesting, I certainly did.

Stay safe out there and don’t forget to hydrate. It’s important. 

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