A woman who was born into Australia's most notorious cult, The Family, has described how she would hide under bed in fear of being beaten.
Anouree Treena-Byrne opened up about the cult's charismatic and 'sociopathic' leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne to The Today Show on Wednesday, describing her as 'horrible' and in no way maternal.
Ms Treena-Byrne, who paused frequently during the interview as she recalled her traumatic childhood, said her grandfather was a 'blood member of The Family' and so therefore she was a part of the cult from birth.
'I would hide under my bed to get away from her.'
Hamilton-Byrne, one of very few female cult leaders, was under the influence of LSD when she began collecting children in Lake Eildon in central Victoria in the 1970s and 1980s in preparation for what she believed was an apocalyptic war.
The now 96-year-old believed it was her duty to gather the children for the new world and amassed up to 500 followers.
In total, 28 children spent time at the property - 14 of which were thought to be the biological children of Hamilton-Byrne and her husband Bill.
The children, who had their hair bleached blonde and shaped into the same bob, were allegedly beaten, starved and injected with LSD by Hamilton-Byrne and other cult leaders.
Police dramatically rescued the traumatised children from the sect property in 1987 after three young women managed to escape and alert police, Ms Treena-Byrne's fellow survivor Ben Shenton told The Today Show this week.
'What Anne indoctrinated people with, she took them as vulnerable people and came up with a system which was very abusive. If they disagree they were bullied, intimidated, people were separated from their families,' Mr Shenton said.
'She came up with an ideology that appeared to help people to begin with, but as soon as they disagreed, they were through out of the cult, people were put into mental hospitals.'
Mr Shenton said his mother was an avid believer of Hamilton-Byrne's claims she was the reincarnation of Jesus.
'So when you think of it, if someone believed that and they ask you to do something, it becomes very easy to go down that path, which is tragic,' he said.
A documentary titled The Family will lift the lid on what life was like under the control of Hamilton-Byrne when it is released in Melbourne on February 23.
The producers examine the history of the cult, with testimonies from former associates and the police detectives who laboured for years to unravel the cult's operations.
The documentary will make its Sydney premier in March, with other states to follow.
A new book detailing the legacy of the notorious cult, called The Family, was also recently released.
1963 Yoga teacher Anne Hamilton meets English physicist and writer, Dr Raynor Johnson and they found a sect known as The Family.
1968 The Family begins to ‘adopt’ and acquire children to create a ‘master race’.
1974 An official school is set up for the ‘master race’ children at the Lake Eildon property.
1978 Anne Hamilton marries William (Bill) Byrne and they take the surname Hamilton-Byrne.
1983 Police visit the Lake Eildon property to search for a missing girl. She is not found on the property.
1987 () Combined police raid on sect property at Lake Eildon. Anne is overseas. Bill is present at the raid but is not charged.
The children are removed from the sect and placed into care.
1987 (Oct/Nov) Bill flees to Hawaii to meet Anne.
1987 () Monbulk School fire – Detective Lex de Man is called to investigate. He learns about The Family.
1989 (about June) Lex de Man writes a report recommending Victoria Police commence a criminal investigation into The Family.
1989 () Operation Forest Task Force commences.
1993 () Anne and Bill are arrested in the Catskill Mountains, Upstate New York.
1993 () Anne and Bill are extradited to Australia.
1993 () Anne and Bill appear in the Victorian Magistrates’ Court, charged with conspiracy to defraud and commit perjury by falsely registering the births of triplets.
1994 In the County Court, Anne and Bill avoid prison and are fined $5000 each.
2001 Bill dies, leaving Anne to lead a diminishing group of followers.
2017 At 96, Anne lives in the dementia wing of a suburban Melbourne nursing home.
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