The "Family" was a doomsday sect in Australia, formed in the mid-1960s, proclaiming its leader, Annie Hamilton Byrne as the Messiah, or the female reincamation of Jesus.The members of the “Family” consisted of not only those adults who work in all classes , but also those children adopted by Annie Hamilton Byrne. As it is reported, the children there were treated with LSD and were abused very often. They were taught that there would be a World War III, a nuclear war, and that the apocalypse would come, so their task would be to start all over again, refresh the spirit, and spread the belief that their “mother” was, in fact, Jesus reincarnate.
Born as Evelyn Edwards in Sale in rural Victoria in 1921, Hamilton-Byrne barely knew her father and her mother was mentally ill
The “Family” was a doomsday sect in Australia, formed in the mid-1960s, which taught a mixture of Christianity and Hinduism, proclaiming its leader, Anne Hamilton-Byrne, as the Messiah, or the female reincarnation of Jesus. There have been and there continue to be many delusional leaders of religious groups who believe that they are either superhuman, reincarnations, or prophets coming to save people. Aside from the adults who blindly followed Hamilton-Byrne in “the Family,” her group consisted of small children, “adopted” and raised by her as their leader and mother.
Anne Hamilton-Byrne adopted 28 children, 14 of whom believed that she was their birth mother. She loved the idea of children but not raising or educating them. They were taught that there would be a World War III, a nuclear war, and that the apocalypse would come, so their task would be to start all over again, refresh the spirit, and spread the belief that their “mother” was, in fact, Jesus reincarnate. The children lived isolated from the rest of world, in a property near Melbourne, by Lake Eildon.
Hamilton-Byrne convinced herself and up to 500 followers she was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Here she is seen with her cat, Tiffany
Anne was born as Evelyn Edwards, in 1921. She didn’t know her father and her mother, who spent most of her life in a psychiatric hospital, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. While in her mid-30s, the future sect leader discovered yoga. She already had one marriage behind her, a husband whom she lost in a fatal traffic accident, and a miscarriage. She was also a soprano singer and played the harp, but was searching for a greater meaning in her life. She became a yoga teacher at the perfect time—in the early 1960s when Spiritualism spread throughout academic and intellectual social circles. Feminism, too, was fast becoming very popular.
As a yoga teacher, Edwards tactically established her studio in the rich corners of Melbourne, working exclusively with middle-aged women, most of them unhappy in their marriages, with grown-up children, looking for their daily purpose. While divorce was still a taboo at the time, their yoga teacher encouraged these women to leave their unhappy lives and join her. She also recruited gay people who were at the time still legally and socially unaccepted. Edwards was seemingly offering love to anyone who needed it.
She was said to be irresistibly charming and charismatic, so it wasn’t hard for her to persuade people to join her. In 1961, she met Raynor Johnson, who, by then had been the Oxford physician and master of the Methodist Queen’s College at the University of Melbourne for 30 years. He was deeply interested in spiritualism and had even published books on the subject. He was about to retire and searching for something to dedicate his time to and took hatha yoga classes with Edwards. He started bringing her more and more people. Johnson even offered his property, “Santiniketan,” outside of Melbourne, for philosophical discussions between the group that he and his yoga teacher now called “the Family.”
Hamilton-Byrne was a yoga teacher when she met highly-respected English physicist Dr Raynor Johnson (pictured) in 1963. Together they founded the sect and began to 'adopt' and acquire children. The University of Melbourne's prestigious Queen's College council has rebuked one of its former leaders for helping set up The Family, saying it "strongly deplores" Dr Raynor Johnson's seminal role in the notorious cult. Theage.com.au reported on February 27, 2017.
Hamilton-Byrne is pictured at the sect property at Lake Eildon in central Victoria. Dr Raynor Johnson wrote that the founder of the cult, Anne Hamilton-Byrne was "supernaturally beautiful".
Ferny Creek, the suburb where Raynor Johnson had his house. Author: Davidarfonjones. CC BY-SA 3.0
Their profiles became known in the elite circles in Melbourne and soon many rich people joined the Family. Edwards was on LSD when she became convinced that she was the reincarnation of Jesus and she changed her name to Anne Hamilton-Byrne. At the Newhaven hospital in Melbourne, many of the doctors and the staff were members of the Family, so many of the patients were treated with LSD and later recruited as members of the sect.
The Family children are seen posing for a photo, date unknown. Boys were dressed in their own identical outfits and girls in another. Anne Hamilton-Byrne TV interview: "I wanted them to look like brothers and sisters, I must admit this. I love them in their little smocks and jeans. The long hair and ribbons, it was beautiful."
The children of The Family, many of whom had their hair dyed blonde to make them look like siblings. The children were injected with LSD and locked away from society for 20 years.
Children were also subject to starvation and beatings. They were told to prepare for an apocalyptic war
In 1968, Hamilton-Byrne started adopting children with her new partner, Bill. Fourteen of them were infants, some natural children of the sect members, while others were acquired through adoption procedures in which the doctors, the social workers, and the lawyers were all members of the Family. “You had babies born in cult hospitals, delivered by cult midwives, handed over to cult social workers,” said Lex de Man, one of the two detectives who worked on bringing charges against Hamilton-Byrne. At the time, adoption policies in Australia were poorly regulated. Also, as the status of a single mother was still socially unacceptable, many young, single mothers were easily persuaded to hand their children over to the Great Mother.
The city of Kew, Kew, showing the Eastern Freeway, Studley Park and Kew Asylum. Author: WalkingMelbourne. CC BY 3.0
Unfortunately, Anne reportedly didn’t care at all about the children. Although according to their recent claims, they all adored her and would have done anything for her love, she never returned the love they longed for. The worst part is that many of the children only knew of Anne and Bill as their parents, the only people from whom they could seek love, but sadly, they never got it. Instead, they were beaten for the smallest disobedience, were kept hungry for days if they accidentally forgot to turn off a light in a room, and were given Mogadon and valium on a daily basis so that they would be more obedient.
Even worse, at the age of 14, the children went through the initiation ritual of the sect that involved giving them LSD for the first time, but certainly not for the last. After their initiation, the kids were given huge doses of the drug that was too much even for the adults. Quite often, while on LSD, the children would be locked in a dark room, with only Anne, or some of their “aunties,” to visit them.
Anne Hamilton-Byrne with Leeanne Creese. Leeann Creese: She beat me so badly that I could hardly move. I was black and blue all over. …I mean, that was just part of life but that was probably the most horrific time.
Sarah Moore: "She had me under LSD for days ... she'd just come in like every 12 hours or so and give me another piece because I wasn't working hard enough." Church Street Films
In total, Hamilton-Byrne acquired 28 children. They were deprived of their right to childhood, happiness, care, and love. All of them lived a constant trauma that was increased throughout their teenage years. Many of them developed depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal. Some of their brave confessions can be seen in the documentary The Family, by Rosie Jones, a film on which she worked for more than two years.
Blotters containing the hallucinogenic drug LSD
During the 1960s and 1970s, Hamilton-Byrne also acquired millions in money and property. Members of the Family were passing their properties to her without any hesitation. She was their goddess and guide of their lives. Even though there have been speculations and suspicions, and investigations about missing children, nobody has ever been able to convict the sect and its leader of charges in the children’s disappearance. However, in 1987, Anne’s “favorite daughter,” Sarah Hamilton Byrne (later Sarah Moore), was expelled from the family due to her rebellion and lack of obedience at 17.
Anne and Bill Hamilton-Byrne arrest photos U.S. Dept. of Justice
Soon after, Sarah met with a private investigator, Helen D., who had already spent a while investigating the sect. It was Helen who told Sarah who “her mother” actually was and that she wasn’t biologically related to her at all. The girl was central to the destruction of the group. The Victorian police released all the children from the property where they were kept, while Hamilton-Byrne and her husband Bill escaped to the States, where she also had a lot of property in her name. They were finally arrested in 1993 by the FBI and brought back to Australia. Unfortunately, the only charges brought against Anne were defrauding and conspiracy related to the falsified adoptions.
Detective Lex said he regrets not bringing Anne to justice He said: ‘My only regret is she was never held totally to account for the misery she caused to the former cult children.’
Hamilton-Byrne is now 97 living in a Melbourne nursing home with dementia
Now living in a nursing home in Melbourne for 12 years, aged 97 and suffering from dementia, she is at the end of her life. The whole story was enlivened again thanks to Rosie Jones, who made the documentary about the horrors that occurred in the Family, and Chris Johnston, who also investigated the subject and co-wrote a book on it with Jones.