The apocalyptic group The Family and their guru, Anne Hamilton-Byrne - one of very few female cult leaders in history - captured international headlines throughout the 1980s and 1990s. 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 rumours 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 t be found, sparking an international police hunt that involved Scotland Yard, Interpol, and the FBI. Could they bring Anne to justice? Today, the elderly Anne has an estate estimated to be worth millions, with only one mir criminal conviction to her name. Her few remaining followers attend her nursing-home bedside. How did such a torious group come to flourish? How did Anne maintain a hold over her followers? And why was she never fully brought to justice? Drawing on revelatory new research, including interviews with survivors, The Family tells for the first time in full the strange and shocking story of one of the most bizarre cults in modern history.
Chris Johnston is a senior writer for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, based in Melbourne. He has been covering developments related to The Family for several years. Rosie Jones is an award-winning writer, director, and editor. Her most recent credits include the feature documentary The Triangle Wars (Best Australian Documentary, Antenna Documentary Festival 2011), Westall '66: a suburban UFO mystery and Obsessed with Walking, about the Booker-nominated writer Will Self. She has edited numerous documentaries, including James Cameron's feature documentary, DeepSea Challenge 3D, and the multi-awarded short docs Queen of the Desert and My Brother Vinnie.