Oct 21, 2017

Melbourne base of US religious cult sells for $9.5 million

The Institute in Basic Life Principles
THE Australian base of a US religious cult — whose founder quit amid a wave of allegations of sexual assault — has sold for $3.5 million more than its quoted price on Melbourne’s fringe.

Scott Carbines
Herald Sun
OCTOBER 20, 2017

THE Australian base of a US religious cult — whose founder quit amid a wave of allegations of sexual assault — has sold for $9.5 million on Melbourne’s fringe.

The Institute in Basic Life Principles’ 3.36ha “Yarra training ­facility” at 111 Mangans Rd, Lilydale, was on the market for $6 million.

The IBLP has run its home school program and seminars from the property, which features on-site houses, apartment complexes, conference centres and a commercial kitchen.

IBLP Australian director Robin Harrison said he believed developer Westrock had purchased the site to turn into housing lots.

“We were sort of driven out really by the cost of utilities,” he said.

“Mainly electricity got beyond the capacity of the families to support, so we’re looking around for another home for the institute ... the electricity bill just doubled in one year. It was $7000 a month just for electricity, so that’s what tipped it over. It’s a pity to lose the open spaces.”

Mr Harrison said the group would be looking for a new base in the local area and would vacate its Mangans Rd home of 17 years mid 2018.

Westrock director John Delaney would not comment to the Herald Sun on whether it had purchased the site, adding “we’re private people.”

A mix of developers, retirement village operators and church or not-for-profit organisations had shown interest in the site, according to MBA Multisell director Mike Brown.

But Mr Brown would not take a call from the Herald Sun about the sale.

The IBLP claims millions have ­attended its seminars since it was founded by Bill Gothard in 1961.

The group states its purpose is to provide instruction on how to “succeed in life” by following principles found in Scripture — but it has been marred by serious allegations in the US of sexual harassment and abuse as well as cover-ups.

The IBLP incorporates several “programs”, including its advanced training institute, which has a branch at the Lilydale property.

That is a Bible-based homeschooling program whose most notorious alumni are the stars of canned US reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting.

The show was engulfed by scandal in 2015 after the eldest son admitted sexually abusing girls, including several of his sisters.

He is believed to have attended a IBLP-run facility after admitting the abuse.

Mr Gothard resigned in 2014 after more than 30 women made sexual harassment and molestation claims against him.

A lawsuit against him and the cult was launched by ex-members last year alleging physical and sexual abuse.

He has denied all the claims.

The lawsuit alleges that IBLP is liquidating its assets and calls for a trust to be established to ensure alleged victims can be compensated.

The controversial founder is listed as a seminar instructor on the IBLP Australia website.

Marketed as a “developer’s dream,” the 3.36ha Lilydale property includes training areas, two 24-bedroom apartment complexes, two four-bedroom “American-style” homes and one three-bedroom “manager’s home”.

It also features three large office complexes, one large conference centre, two smaller conference rooms and a commercial kitchen with seating for more than 100 people.

The IBLP Australia website advertises seminars at the Lilydale property until January 2018.


Originally published as US cult’s Melbourne base sells for $9.5m


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