The Santiniketan Park Association, also known as The Family and The Great White Brotherhood, is a controversial New Age group formed in Australia under the leadership of the Yoga teacher Anne Hamilton-Byrne.


Around 1964 Dr Raynor Johnson was hosting regular meetings of a religious and philosophical discussion group led by Hamilton-Byrne at Santiniketan, his home at Ferny Creek in the Dandenong Ranges on the eastern outskirts of Melbourne. The group purchased an adjoining property which they named Santiniketan Park [1] in 1968 and constructed a meeting hall, Santiniketan Lodge.

The association consisted of middle class, professional people; it has been estimated that a quarter were nurses and other medical personnel, and that many were recruited by Johnson who referred them to Hamilton-Byrne's hatha yoga classes [2]. Members mainly lived in nearby suburbs and townships in the Dandenongs, meeting each Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evening [3] at Santiniketan Lodge, Crowther House in Olinda or another property in the area known as the White Lodge [4].


During the late 1960s and 1970s Newhaven Hospital in Kew was a private psychiatric hospital owned and managed by Marion Villimek, a Santiniketan member; many of its staff and attending psychiatrists were also members [4][5] [6].

Many patients at Newhaven were treated with the hallucinogenic drug LSD [7]. The hospital was used to recruit potential new members from among the patients, and also to administer LSD to members under the direction of the Santiniketan psychiatrists Dr John Mackay and Dr Howard Whittaker [8]. One of the original members of the Association was given LSD, electroconvulsive therapy and two leucotomies during the late 1960s [9].

Although the psychiatric hospital had been closed down by 1992, in that year a new inquest was ordered into the death of a Newhaven patient in 1975 after new claims that his death had been due to deep sleep therapy. The inquest heard evidence concerning the use of electroconvulsive therapy, LSD and other practices at Newhaven but found no evidence that deep sleep had been used on this patient. [10]. The Newhaven building was later reopened as a nursing home with no connections to its previous owner or uses.

Kia LamaEdit

Anne Hamilton-Byrne acquired fourteen infants and young children between about 1968 and 1975. Some were the natural children of Santiniketan members, others had been obtained through irregular adoptions arranged by lawyers, doctors and social workers within the group who could bypass the normal processes. The children’s identities were changed using false birth certificates or deed poll, all being given the surname 'Hamilton-Byrne' and dressed alike even to the extent of their hair being dyed uniformly blonde[11].

The children were kept in seclusion and home-schooled at Kia Lama, a rural property usually referred to as "Uptop", at Taylor Bay on Lake Eildon near the town of Eildon, Victoria. They were taught that Anne Hamilton-Byrne was their biological mother, and knew the other adults in the group as 'aunties' and 'uncles' [4]. They were denied almost all access to the outside world, and subjected to a discipline that included frequent corporal punishment and starvation diets [12].

The children were frequently dosed with the psychiatric drugs Anatensol, Diazepam, Haloperidol, Largactil, Mogadon, Serepax, Stelazine, Tegretol or Tofranil[4]. On reaching adolescence they were compelled to undergo an initiation involving LSD[13]: while under the influence of the drug the child would be left in a dark room, alone apart from visits by Hamilton-Byrne or one of the psychiatrists from the group[4].


A few children managed to escape. One adoptive daughter, Sarah Hamilton-Byrne, later wrote a book of her experiences giving an account of stealing white children by the medical establishment and others. In it she claimed that her biological mother had come to get rid of a baby and that members of the medical establishment in Melbourne and Geelong took part in a process where the woman was told the baby had died at birth, when it actually had been taken away and eventually passed on to Anne Hamilton Byrne.[14]

Religious ClaimsEdit

The Santikinetan Park Association taught an eclectic mixture of Christianity and Hinduism with other eastern and western religions on the principle that spiritual truths are universal[15]. The children studied the major scriptures of these religions and also the works of fashionable gurus including Sri Chinmoy, Meher Baba and Rajneesh[4]. The group had an inner circle who justified their actions by their claim to be avatars of the Apostles of Jesus[16].

Siddha YogaEdit

For a few years Anne Hamilton-Byrne developed a special connection to the Siddha Yoga movement, receiving shaktipat initiation from Swami Muktananda and taking the Sanskrit name Ma Yoga Shakti [17]. She took some of the children to stay with Muktananda at his ashram at South Fallsburg in the Catskill Mountains in 1979 and 1981[4], and purchased a nearby property as her own base in the USA. However, she later became disillusioned with Muktananda and helped other disaffected members of his movement to disconnect[18].

The Law IntervenesEdit

On 14 August 1987 a police raid on Kia Lama released the children still being held there [19].

Anne Hamilton-Byrne and her husband, William, remained outside Australia for the next six years. Operation Forest, an investigation involving police in Australia, the USA and the United Kingdom resulted in their arrest in June 1993 by the FBI at the nearby town of Hurleyville in the Catskills [20]. They were extradited to Australia [21] and charged with conspiracy to defraud and commit perjury by falsely registering the births of three unrelated children as their own triplets. Elizabeth Whittaker, wife of the psychiatrist Howard Whittaker, was their co-defendant [22]. The Hamilton-Byrnes pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of making a false declaration[23] and were fined $5000 each; the charge against Whittaker was dropped [24].


  1. Supreme Court of Victoria (1999) Judgement in Kibby v. Registrar of Titles and Another [1]
  2. Notes at Think Big Productions [2]
  3. 'The Family prays together, but no longer stays together' The Age 11 June 1993
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Hamilton-Byrne, S. (1995a) Unseen, Unheard, Unknown: My life inside the family of Anne Hamilton-Byrne (Penguin Books: Ringwood) ISBN 0-140174-34-6; an extract is online at [3]
  5. 'Inquest on death in cult hospital' The Age 13 March 1992
  6. Middleton, W. (2007) Reconstructing the Past:Trauma, Memory and Therapy. Background paper for the seminars “Trauma, Dissociation and Psychosis: Metaphor, Strategy and Reality”, the Delphi Centre in collaboration with The Cannan Institute and the Trauma & Dissociation Unit, Belmont Hospital, Sydney 4th-5th May 2007 p.97 [4]
  7. Elias, D. (1992) 'Inquest to probe psychiatry of swinging 'sixties' The Age 14 March 1992
  8. Hamilton-Byrne, S. (1995b) Hierarchies of organisation within cults The Skeptic 15(3): 26 [5]
  9. Supreme Court of Victoria (1999) Ibid.
  10. 'No sleep therapy - coroner' The Age 25 August 1992
  11. Sinnott, N.H. (1997) Anatomy of a cruel cult The Skeptic 17(2) p.45 [6]
  12. Middleton, W. (2007) Ibid. p.96
  13. Middleton, W. (2007) Ibid. p.97
  14. The Spirit of Things ABC television 9/07/00
  15. Johnson, R. (1972) The Spiritual Path (Hodder & Stoughton: London) ISBN 0-340158-52-2
  16. Hamilton-Byrne, S. (1995b) Ibid., p.27
  17. Sarlo's Guru Rating Service [7]
  18. Notes by Stan Trout at Leaving Siddha Yoga[8]
  19. Elias, D. & Ryle, G. (1994) 'Children celebrate release, but little else' The Age 23 September 1994
  20. 'Australian Sect leaders arrested' The Sun-Herald 5 June 1993
  21. 'Sect couple face court in Melbourne' The Age 17 August 1993
  22. 'Three face charges of conspiracy' The Age 16 November 1993
  23. 'Sect leader registered three babies as her own' The Age 23 September 1994
  24. 'Family group founder, husband fined' The Age 27 September 1994