Between 1960 and 2000 Australia witnessed four waves of “cult controversy.” This article provides a historical overview of these controversies. The four historical vignettes presented demonstrate the significance of Australia in the wider global history of the “cult wars” and some of the local societal reactions occasioned by various home grown and international new religious movements that have proved controversial. This article identifies a series of the key episodes and periods that might serve as historical landmarks for the writing of a more fulsome history of new religions in Australia, introduces to a scholarly audience some of the important individuals involved in these Australian controversies, and highlights the key new religions and cult-watching groups whose interactions have collectively shaped the Australian societal response over this period.

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