Home of the founder and leader of depraved cult The Family whose members drugged and imprisoned children to create a 'master race' goes up for sale for $1.25million

Daily Mail, Australia/December 21, 2021

By Padraig Collins

A house that was home to a notorious cult leader, described as one of Australia's most evil criminals, is up for sale.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne, the founder of depraved cult The Family, is reported to have lived at the 12-bedroom property on Mount Dandenong Tourist Road in Olinda, Victoria.

Bell Real Estate has listed the 12-bedroom property for sale for $1.15million to $1.25million. 

Neighbours, who did not want to be named, confirmed to the Leader newspaper that the property had ties to The Family.

According to the real estate listing, the property is set on about 0.8ha of 'lush acres of predominantly flat grounds dotted with European classics such as pines, elms, weeping cherry, fir, oak, beech and pine trees – this is a lifestyle or investment opportunity of grand proportions that will bring joy to future generations'.

'The breathtaking grounds flowing over 8,645 square metres are home to a rambling original homestead circa 1930s with traces of the bygone era still lingering, including the perfectly flat lawn at the rear that was once a tennis court.'

It says that one of the original guesthouses of the area operated as a restaurant and accommodation business in the past and the residence is suitable for renovation or rebuilding.

'The location is rich in lifestyle amenities and will bring a lifetime of joy to growing families.'

Hamilton-Byrne ran a cult in central Victoria that included the illegal adoption and drugging of many children from the early 1970s until 1987, when two children managed to escape and alert police.

Identically dressed with bleached blonde hair cut in the same style, the children were beaten, starved and injected with LSD by Hamilton-Byrne and other cult leaders in terrifying sect initiation rituals.

Lex De Man, a retired Victorian detective who led investigations into the cult said Hamilton-Byrne - who died in June 2019 - was 'the most evil person I ever came across', despite her never being charged with child abuse.

'You wouldn't normally say that about a 98-year-old woman … From my perspective upon hearing the news of her death, no one is sad,' he said.

'Those who survived, some justice has been served. Today is not a sad day but a day to celebrate … may she rot,' he told AAP at the time of Hamilton-Byrne's death.

His one regret was that she never faced justice for the crimes.

'She left a trail of broken lives, ruined people and the one good thing I've seen is that the former children who were victims of some horrible things have moved on with their lives and they're good people,' Mr De Man said.   

She convinced herself and up to 500 followers she was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

Under the influence of LSD, she believed an apocalyptic war was imminent and that she had a duty to collect children from birth in preparation for a new world.

She gathered at least 28 young boys and girls and raised them as her own on a property in Lake Eildon in central Victoria.

Some children were obtained through questionable adoptions, others were born to cult members and some were even handed over by compliant sect parents.

Born as Evelyn Edwards in Sale in rural Victoria in 1921, Hamilton-Byrne barely knew her father and her mother was mentally ill.

She was a yoga teacher when she met English physicist Dr Raynor Johnson in 1963.

They founded the sect and began to 'adopt' and acquire children to create a 'master race' while teaching a mixture of Christianity and Hinduism.

In 1987, the authorities dramatically rescued six traumatised children from the sect property after two managed to escape and alert police.

Because of legal complexities, Hamilton-Byrne and her second husband Bill Byrne were only ever convicted of fraud offences in relation to forged birth certificates.

They avoided jail and were fined $5,000 each.

In 2009, Hamilton-Byrne told the Sunday Herald Sun she was ready to die after reconciling with Sarah, the 'daughter' who had exposed the cult to the world.

But she denied mistreating the children, saying, 'They were normal children and they could be disobedient to a point, but not all the time.'


  • 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 (14 August) 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 (12 December) 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 (11 December) Operation Forest Task Force commences.
  • 1993 (4 June) Anne and Bill are arrested in the Catskill Mountains, Upstate New York.
  • 1993 (17 August) Anne and Bill are extradited to Australia.
  • 1993 (31 August) 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.
  • 2019 Anne dies in the palliative care of a Melbourne nursing home aged 98.

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