The New Religious Movement called “The Family” was founded by Anne Hamilton-Byrne (1921–2019) in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia. Hamilton-Byrne taught that she was Jesus Christ and proclaimed her first follower, Dr. Raynor Johnson, to be John the Baptist. The Family combined Christian, Hindu, and New Age ideas with the use of psychedelic drugs, and an eschatological focus on the emergence of a new society after the destruction of the present era. The Family first came to media prominence in 1987 as a result of police investigations, and more recent memoirs and documentaries have also generated media interest around Hamilton-Byrne and her movement. This article discusses The Family and the leadership of Anne Hamilton-Byrne, exploring the role of the media in consolidating her powerful image and in revealing deeply held concerns about “folk devils,” “brainwashing cults,” and maternal and spiritual deviancy in twenty-first century Australia.

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