Screen Education

Dark Enlightenment CRIME AND POWER IN THE CULT OF THE FAMILY

Lake Eildon is approximately 120 kilometres northeast of Melbourne. On a good day, you can drive there in three-and-a-bit hours. It is a popular holiday destination for families, with many journeying up to hike through the mountainous national park or do water sports on the expansive reservoir. This beautiful lake-side area was also home to one of Australia’s most notorious cults, The Family: an apocalyptic organisation run by Anne Hamilton-Byrne (formerly Evelyn Grace Victoria Edwards) and her husband Bill, who fraudulently adopted children and raised them as their own. It is alleged that the children – who had their hair bleached and were dressed in matching outfits to give the semblance of familial connection – were physically abused, starved and routinely injected with LSD to forcibly induce ‘spiritual’ experiences, as well as being brainwashed to believe that she was their mother and Messiah. The organisation was the subject of Chris Johnston and Rosie Jones’ 2017 book The Family, which elaborated on the findings in Jones’ 2016 documentary of the same name.1 More recently, Jones has adapted the film into the three-part series The Cult of The Family for the ABC, with Anna Grieve as producer, Jaems Grant as director of photography, Bill Murphy as editor and Amanda Brown composing the score.

I recall watching Jones’ feature-length documentary in 2016 and feeling overwhelmed. Growing up outside of Victoria, I was not familiar with the cult; the ninety-eight-minute documentary was thus a powerful introduction to an immensely upsetting situation. The film documented accounts of long-term child abuse and sexual assault, along with detailed reports of torture. It featured interviews with police

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