The Family

An Australian sect that illegally took 14 children and severely abused them for several years

1964 - present

Founder Anne Hamilton-Byrne's children

In the 1960-70s, a hospital that relied on LSD to treat patients was being used to recruit patients into The Family, an Australian religious group led by Anne Hamilton-Byrne, who thought she was a god. Hamilton-Byrne later conducted unconventional and illegal adoptions of 14 children, who she prepared for an upcoming apocalypse. Under her care, these children were severely beaten, starved, and involuntarily drugged until authorities raided the community in 1987. After being the subject of multiple police investigations, she was fined only $5,000.

Religion: New Age

Founder: Anne Hamilton-Byrne

Founded: 1964

Location: Australia

Also called: Santiniketan Park Association; Great White Brotherhood

Other info:

Hamilton-Byrne, who some followers believed was Jesus Christ, was glamorous and charismatic — and, many allege, very dangerous. From her base in a quiet suburb, she recruited wealthy professionals to join her cult, including doctors, lawyers, nurses, architects, and scientists. She acquired children and raised them as her own, bleaching their hair blonde to make them look like siblings, and her group became surrounded by rumors of LSD use, child abuse, and strange spiritual rituals.

In 1987, police swooped on The Family’s lakeside compound and rescued children who claimed they were part of Anne’s future master race. The children recounted terrible stories of near starvation, emotional manipulation, and physical abuse. But Anne could not be found, sparking an international police hunt. Could they bring Anne to justice?

How did such a notorious group come to flourish? How did Anne maintain a hold over her followers? Drawing on revelatory new research, including police files, diary entries, and interviews with survivors, The Family tells the strange and shocking story of one of the most bizarre cults in modern history.

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