Head of Family cult settles claim by accuser out of court

Herald Sun, Australia/July 29, 2011

Aanne 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.

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.

Ms Hamilton-Byrne - who lives in a suburban nursing home - also claims the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 destroyed documents relating to her activities and records of people at the Family properties. Court documents also claim other Hamilton-Bryne records were destroyed in a separate fire at Gembrook in June 2010.

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".

Mr Rosanove said he suffers bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress, severe depression, anxiety and sleep problems as a result of the alleged abuse.

The LSD doses were allegedly administered during "clearing" sessions and the sect teachings were a mix of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Ms Hamilton-Byrne's "own interpretations", court documents state.

Ms Hamilton-Byrne, through her litigation guardian, denied the abuse claims.

In her defence statement, Ms Hamilton-Byrne argued the courts should not allow Mr Rosanove's law suit to continue because it was too long ago.

The Family's Lake Eildon property was raided by the federal police and child welfare officers in 1987 when six children were removed and authorities identified 14 children who had been raised by the cult. In 1993, Anne and husband Bill Hamilton-Byrne were arrested by the FBI in the Catskill Mountains, New York, and extradited to Melbourne.

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