Head of Family cult Anne Hamilton-Byrne settles claim by accuser out of court

Anne Hamilton-Byrne, the former head of the Family cult, has made a secret out-of-court settlement with one of her alleged victims, who claimed he was routinely injected with LSD at her behest.

Australia’s Herald Sun reports

Ms Hamilton-Bryne, who bleached the hair of children in the sect, and kept them hidden from the world, agreed to the settlement on Monday.

Supreme Court documents show at least five former cult members in the past four years have sued the self-appointed mystic for treatment they claimed to have suffered at her hands or under her direction.

It is believed Ms Hamilton-Byrne, who has dementia that her lawyers say renders her unable to remember the past, has settled at least two other actions and paid an undisclosed amount to shut down the legal actions. […]

In this week’s settlement, Robert Rosanove, now aged 59, claimed he was regularly abused between 1961 and 1974, when he was raised as a member of the Family in a range of locations in Victoria, including Ferny Creek.


Mr Rosanove’s statement of claim accuses Ms Hamilton-Byrne or her followers of subjecting him to abuse, including:

FORCIBLY administering psychoactive and hallucinogenic drugs, including LSD.

FALSELY “imprisoning” and “brainwashing” him.

FORCING him to take medications not legally prescribed and involuntary admissions to psychiatric institutions.

DEPRIVING him of “normal social interaction with other children and adults”.

Note that ‘The Family’ in this news story is not the same group as The Family International (formerly Children of God) or the Washington, D.C. group known as C-Street, The Fellowship, or sometimes The Family.

The Family group founded by Anne Hamilton-Byrne was also known as the Santiniketan Park Association or The Great White Brotherhood.

In an August 2009 story the Herald Sun explained

The Family made headlines around the world in 1987 when the Australian Federal Police and Community Services Victoria raided the cult’s property at Lake Eildon and took six children into care.

Police later found 14 children had been brought up in almost complete isolation believing they were the offspring of Hamilton-Byrne and her late husband Bill.

In fact none of them was the Hamilton-Byrnes’, but children of single mothers who had been pressured into giving them up for adoption or cult members who did not want them.

But it was the way the children had been treated that really shocked the nation.

Hamilton-Byrne had ordered the children’s hair be dyed peroxide blonde and they be dressed in identical outfits.

It was also alleged they had been half-starved, beaten and forced to take large quantities of tranquilisers to “calm them down” and even fed LSD when they became adults.

According to Wikipedia

A few children managed to escape. One adoptive daughter, Sarah Hamilton-Byrne [Sarah Moore – RNB], later wrote a book, Unseen Unheard Unknown, in which she claimed, among other things, that children were stolen. She claimed that her biological mother had come to get rid of a baby and that members of the medical establishment in Melbourne and Geelong took part in a process where women were told that their babies had died at birth, when they had actually been taken away and eventually passed on to Anne Hamilton-Byrne. […]

On 14 August 1987 a police raid on Kia Lama released the children still being held there.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne and her husband, William, remained outside Australia for the next six years. Operation Forest, an investigation involving police in Australia, the USA, and the United Kingdom resulted in their arrest in June 1993 by the FBI at the nearby town of Hurleyville in the Catskills in New York. They were extradited to Australia and charged with conspiracy to defraud and to commit perjury by falsely registering the births of three unrelated children as their own triplets. Elizabeth Whitaker, wife of the psychiatrist Howard Whitaker, was their co-defendant. The Hamilton-Byrnes pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of making a false declaration and were fined $5000 each; the charge against Whitaker was dropped.

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This post was last updated: Aug. 2, 2011