Inside The Family: Australia's deadliest cult

If you harbour a borderline morbid fascination with cults, you’re certainly not alone. Countless movies, novels, plays, podcasts and articles explore the psychology behind why people join cults, and why people start them. One of Australia’s most infamous cults was simply known as The Family. The Family was headed by a Victorian woman named Anne Hamilton Byrne, who at her height through the 1960s until the late 1980s, ran the sadistic apocalyptic sect with hundreds of members.

Anne was as beautiful and charismatic as she was delusional and dangerous.

Anne – who was born Evelyn Grace Victoria Edwards – was a yoga teacher turned cult leader who convinced her followers she was Jesus Christ reincarnated.

Her ethos was simple – the world was going to end, and the only way you could be saved is if you joined The Family

Along with her husband Bill, Anne started recruiting followers from a psychiatric clinic. She targeted middle-class professionals, some even with medical backgrounds, and essentially ‘brainwashed’ them with her new age ‘spiritualism’.

And she didn’t stop there. Anne acquired children through adoption scams or even through other members, and allegedly injected them with LSD, as well as beating and starving them.

Our guest on the show today is New Zealand-born author JP Pomare, who’s new novel In The Clearing was inspired by the disturbing doomsday cult. JP did extensive research on The Family and cults in general, and he joins us on today’s episode.

If you or someone you know needs support, help is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Your host is April Glover

Your audio editor is Melanie De Gioia

The Executive Producer is Elissa Ratliff

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