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UNSEEN, UNHEARD, UNKNOWN: The Children Left Behind In Melbourne’s Most Notorious Cult

Comments (12)
  1. Ben Shenton says:

    @Tara Watson – I’ve just come across this review.
    I’m very impressed.
    Wow this brought back memories of the punishment of holding fingers over candle flames that I’d totally forgotten about.
    It makes my heart bleed. What has been so good with this film is that it given a voice to more people than just the ‘kids’, like my self who were rescued when the raid was done.
    I haven’t spoken or connected with Roland until the Premiere on 30 July 2016 and I’m so glad I have. I’m beginning to build a relationship with him that hopefully will help him along the process of moving past all of this.
    Rosie Jones and Anna Grieve have done an outstanding job in creating a conversation piece to deal with many complicated issues.

  2. Judith Whitaker says:

    I live in Perth and hope to see this. My parents were heavily involved and as natural children we were very neglected, on Anne’s orders. When I left at 19, never having been at Eildon as that was set up after my time, I lost any hope of a relationship with my mother, Elizabeth Whitaker. My father spent the rest of his life downplaying his role which was considerable in the beginning. Many suffered in different ways but I have never been asked for my story. How they got away with it beggars belief

  3. one of the family kids says:

    Hi Judith; I am one of the foster kids who lived Up Top. Had nothing to do with the movie; I am completely done with the media sensationally rehashing our lives at random moments for over 20 years.
    Just wanted to talk to you about your mother though.
    Though she did not speak about her children, I always had a feeling that she had a grief she did not talk about related to her real kids. I don’t know if it helps but I think she missed you and thought about you.
    I am so sorry you did not get to have a relationship with your Mom. Apparently in the movie she is shown as a monster; I did not want you to think that those were the only memories people have of her.
    Up Top she was always fair and never played favorites. I was a foster kid up there ( different from the “Hamilton Byrnes” who were seen as Annes’ real kids, and hence more spiritual than the fosters) but she seemed to try to treat everyone fairly, within the restrictions and rules of the place.

    Of course , she did not get to make the rules or decide the punishments. I was no favorite of Trish, the other senior aunty, and I always used to look forward to Liz’s fortnights up.

    When she was down in Melbourne, since the Aunts had to pay for all the kids food etc, she spent her time working to make money to feed etc the kids.

    I don’t know if any of this helps at all, but I just wanted you to have another view of your Mom.

    Ben; Hi! Hope to get to visit with you when next I am back home. Sovereign Hill was fun for all of us,, though as you said, also kind of expensive…

  4. one of the family kids says:

    Hi Judith,
    Spoke with someone who had more contact with Liz in later years. She said your Mum was very proud of you and in later years would carry around magazines with designs you had made and show them to her friends.
    I am very sorry for your pain in all of this.

    1. Judith Whitaker says:

      Thank you. The quilt patterns are recent and from the last years of her life when I was able to pin her down and visit. She had 6 grandchildren 4 she hardly met and a passing acquaintance with 2 as we kept our kids safe from those influences. Most oldies carry around pics of grandkids not magazine articles. I don’t want pity or sympathy or to hear how kind Mum was to others, the withdrawing of that from her own, and Dad’s conditional application of it has been our struggle Nobody cared when it mattered so no point pouring on the sympathy now, it sounds so false. I moved on years ago and want no contact with any who were involved The film was brought to my attention by a cousin

  5. Suzy says:

    I am friends with a former member of The Family. He had nothing to do with the Movie either. In fact. I informed him of the doco-drama and he was interested in seeing it with me and so we did. I feel he is done with the whole thing now as I sent him a review of the doco-drama and with so much anger in his system still , he has now cut me off and told me not to contact him again and doesn’t want to know about it anymore. Its really sad for me as well as all I want to do is support him – he has done this before mind you – the whole thing has affected him so much – there is a lot of anger there still.

  6. one of the family kids says:

    Hi Judith,]
    I was a child when you were already an adult.
    And respectfully, there has never been anyone trying to help me out with any of this. As a foster Up Top, for years people/the media/ pretended we didn’t exist. I believe this is the first time the media has even acknowledged the fosters existed.
    . My Dad once bought an expensive piece of play equipment to be used Up Top, where I lived for 5 years , but for several years I wasn’t allowed to use it; it was only allowed to be used by Hamilton Byrnes. Believe me, I am well aware of what it is like to be bottom of the heap. And my parents certainly gave so much for the Hamilton Byrne children.
    For what it is worth, saying decent things about the Aunties isn’t getting me any brownie points. I gather the movie goes into detail and accusing your mother of burning her adopted son’s fingers. By the way, I seem to remember it was with matches, after he started a fire, and that she couldn’t do it, and that Anne did it.
    Personally, I would rather my kids didn’t think their grandmother was a sociopath, so I was trying to give some balance for you in the only way I could, because I hate seeing an underdog who no one will speak up for, but in the end, how you see your mother is up to you.
    I have sympathy/feel pain for so many people involved in this, all who are hurting in their own ways, the HB children, the foster children, the ex members, the current members, the people like you.
    I was talking to another ex member who is old, left the group, and her daughter, who she rarely saw while in the group, now refuses to have any contact with her. My heart breaks for both of them. Mother and daughter.
    I left the group many years ago, as a young adult, and don’t believe in organized religion or people interpreting God at all. . And I refuse now to go along with group think; I stand for the truth as I see it, and I refuse to demonize people, including your mother.

  7. SAD SITUATION says:

    I feel so sad for this whole situation – but for ex family members who were foster children and seen as underdogs compared to the “real” HB children, kids having distorted views of their ‘mums’, people like Suzy who are trying to support ex Family kids, – my heart breaks for all of you when I read all of this. I refuse to demonise people too but I think Anne Hamilton Byrne is the major culprit in the whole situation here. Wasn’t she the one that gave the”orders” to everybody and everybody obeyed?

  8. one of the family kids says:

    Sad Situation; Hi. Yes, Anne made the rules, and since she was the religious leader most people did what they were told, because they believed that she was able to tell them what God wanted them to do.. One of the reasons I don’t like religious leaders interpreting God for people or telling them what they are allowed to do in their daily lives. Imo, people do better following their own conscience, not other peoples rules.
    I don’t believe in corporal punishment( spanking) or missing meals for kids. And I think kids do better raised in small affectionate nuclear families than in groups. Having said that, we are talking about life and social norms in the late 1960’s, 1970’s. Corporal punishment was still allowed in Melbourne public schools at the time. And I was Up top at the time when Anne said that all us girls were too old to be spanked, and that stopped.
    ( I think the punishment that mainly replaced spanking was writing lines. Personally I do think that way too many lines were given out, in large numbers for trivial things.)

    But I also have a lot of questions about the way Anne is being vilified over all the adoptions.. I would have thought that some people like Ben’s real Mum who I have always like( I have fond memories of a trip on Puffing Billy with her) would have been great parents. And it sounds like some of the other kids had young mothers who wanted to raise them? What I don’t understand is why their extended families weren’t able to speak up for them and stop the adoptions?

    However ,it also seems that back in the 1960’s and 1970’s that at least in some cases, there was anyone much trying to help disabled kids whose parents weren’t willing or able to care for them.

    Trying to be very respectful of peoples privacy here.. There was a child raised in England who had severe brain damage at birth, the doctor gave her to Anne as her parents did not want to raise her.. She never went Up Top; she attended a school for mentally disabled, and ended up moving in a group home at 21 for people with Downs Syndrome etc.
    There was another very young child who was in an institution. The child was blind, and Anne found a doctor willing to operate . I talked with one of the adults who later left the group and was there at the time., who told me how hard it was for her to find a doctor willing to help. He said he was there when one doctor told her the best thing to do was put the child( back?) in an institution and concentrate on her other kids.
    . In the end, she found a doctor, the kid had the operation, and as a child I do remember the fuss afterwards and how we were told about when the bandages were taken off and the kid was able to see objects ( in particular Anne’s nose;). The kid came up top and was raised as one of the Hamilton Byrnes.
    Another kid, also adopted into the family, had “not suitable for adoption” stamped on his certificate. Why should any child be considered not worthy of a home and family? And what should we say about the doctors who were callous enough to have that as a category in the 1960’s/early 1970’s?

    I think that Anne’s intentions were good. many of her views on child raising; not so good.

    1. Ben Shenton says:

      I’m very interested to read this information about Anne’s persistence in helping people in need. I knew of both of these children you’ve spoken about as well as my foster sister that my mum, Joy, adopted. She had operations etc. When my Mum left her first husband he insisted in keeping this girl as she’d won her way into the hearts of them all. She was going to be handed over the Anne but that never happened.
      Rosie wanted to capture the ‘good’ if people were willing to speak. My mum was given the opportunity but in the end decided not to.
      There’s no real winners in this story just people who have survived and overcome. So many folks are left to pick up the pieces and do the best with the cards they go dealt on life. Not much different to so many people in life. This story is just more public than others

  9. One of the family kids says:

    Hi Ben, i agree about so many people in this world having challenging lives.
    I think though that Rosie did not realize what a big ask it was, expecting current and ex family members to trust her.For the last 20 years, the media has been writing articles. Generally, if you want a quick photo and a quote to put near the words :evil” or wicked” you don’t tell people that is what you want. You say” I want to tell your side of the story” and then edit the clip, and pick and choose from the words said to give the worst possible picture. Back in the day ( about 20 years ago now) before I left the family people described a technique of the media , where they would corner someone, hit them, and then film their reaction, editing it to show “violence” on the part of the family member..
    I did not witness this happening, but was almost hit by a cameraman around Christine Flemings trial. There was a lot of adrenaline, we were all running away after the trial ( note to self, do not wear high heels if you plan on running from the media) and one of the cameramen cornered me. He raised his fist, and given the previous about media filming retaliation, I had already decided to take the hit .I looked at the man with my chin up, waiting for the punch, thinking, well he can see I’m one of the kids, so so much for ‘caring’ about any of us,but as we looked at each other, he shook his fist out and turned away.’
    I figure he was basically a nice man.

    But trusting Rosie enough to give her a story; most of us kids did not even want to do that,or give up our privacy Why would the few remaining adults still alive want to do that, especially as often as the media misquotes and misleads?

  10. wayne Callister says:

    Wayne Callister
    I would firstly like to say to Judith Whitaker that your brothers are good men. I lived at Sherwood and Delves Ave in Tunbridge Wells with them. Anne Hamilton-Byrne and her friends are monsters and destroyed so many peoples choices in life. Why any one would have believed Annes bull shit is beyond me I discovered she was a fraud when I was 11 years old. Most of the cult senior members were very nasty people and should have been jailed as so many would wish.. Hamilton-Byrne probably has never had an original thought of her own and just plagiarized. No expertise or even competence in any job or profession other than a foul mouth and lots of money. I would say to any one who has been involved with this cult or criminal gang, if you believe in Anne then you are just a moron bereft of original thought.

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