Feb 27, 2017

Melbourne Uni college 'strongly deplores' academic's link to notorious cult The Family

Dr Raynor Johnson has been criticised by his former college for his role in The Family.
Dr Raynor Johnson 
Chris Johnston
The Age
FEBRUARY 27 2017

The University of Melbourne's prestigious Queen's College council has rebuked one of its former leaders for helping set up The Family, saying it "strongly deplores" Dr Raynor Johnson's seminal role in the notorious cult.

Dr Johnson was an eminent British physicist from Leeds who moved to Melbourne and became master of Queen's College in 1934.

But in 1962, aged 61, he met Anne Hamilton-Byrne, a yoga teacher who would soon, with his help, start The Family.

In one of Victoria's darkest child abuse episodes, the cult imprisoned, mistreated and starved 14 children at Lake Eildon until 1987 when they were freed by police.

A further 14 children were housed by Hamilton-Byrne in the Dandenong Ranges. The cult used the drug LSD as a mind control tool on both children and adults.

The children were taken by the cult in scam adoptions from Melbourne hospitals or gifted to Hamilton-Byrne – who proclaimed herself to be Jesus – by adult members of the cult.

"Queen's College regrets the direction that Raynor Johnson's life and thought took during his final two years at the college," the council said in a statement.

"It strongly deplores his association with the sect."

The statement said Dr Johnson gave the cult a "cloak of respectability".

It offered "profound sympathy" to the children physically and mentally harmed through the 1970's and 1980's.

The college's west wing was named the Johnson Wing in 1959 "to honour his long-standing contribution to the college community." The wing is known as "J-Wing."

New Queen's College master Dr Stewart Gill – who recently took over from Professor David Runia – would not commit to re-naming the wing.

But he is prepared to review Johnson's honours at the college.

Former police detective Lex de Man, who headed a police taskforce into The Family, said the wing should be renamed "in the honour of" Dr Sarah Moore, a former cult child who died last year, aged 46.

She was a top medical student at the University of Melbourne.

"Sarah overcame adversity to achieve a medical degree from the very institution where Raynor Johnson held court," he said.

J-Wing was a "blight on the University's very own motto of 'We grow in the esteem of future generations'," he said.

Dr Gill said no university students were lured into the cult while Johnson was the Master of Queens, but he said a new documentary film and book about The Family had brought fresh evidence to light and would play an important role in the college council's decision.

Dr Johnson moved away from physics and into metaphysics as he got older, writing several books on spiritualism.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne introduced herself to him at Queen's College in December, 1962.

He moved to the Dandenong Ranges to a house she found for him which was being sold by Sir John Latham, a former chief justice and deputy prime minister of Australia.

Johnson retired in 1964 and visited the university only three times before his death in 1987.

He took the hallucinogens LSD and psilocybin with cult members including Hamilton-Byrne, who he considered his "master" or spiritual teacher.

He helped recruit cult members through Council of Adult Education lectures throughout Melbourne.

He wrote in his diary that Hamilton-Byrne was "supernaturally beautiful" and a living version of Jesus.

"It is legitimate to regard Johnson as the co-founder, with Mrs Hamilton-Byrne, of the sect," the college statement says.

"The theoretical base of the sect's ideology was based on his theological and philosophical views, subtly appropriated and exploited by Mrs Hamilton-Byrne.

"He also defended it in the media when its secretive activities began to attract adverse attention."

The college now concedes Johnson was "probably aware" of the cult's direct link with the Newhaven psychiatric hospital in Kew, which it used as a reccruiting and LSD facility, and "no doubt" knew of the cult's irregular adoptions.

But he was unaware children were being abused, it says.

Chris Johnston is joint author, with Rosie Jones, of the book "The Family".


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