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Let's Talk About Sects

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Bonus Episode: The Family Update

On the 14 June 2019, news broke in Australia that many people had been waiting on for a number of years. That news was the death of this country’s most notorious cult leader, Anne Hamilton-Byrne. In this bonus episode, I’m bringing you an interview with investigative journalist Chris Johnston, who has been looking into The Family for quite some time. He worked with director Rosie Jones on her recent documentary ‘The Cult of the Family’, and they also co-wrote a book together about the group...


Chung Moo Quan

Chung Moo Quan positioned itself as a superior martial arts school that taught eight different practices at once. Though this may have originally struck prospective students as a bargain-and-a-half, many who chose to take it up would come out the other end having lost thousands of dollars, personal relationships and job opportunities, and even their sense of self. Before the school’s founder and four other defendants were jailed in 1995, various experts had told reporters that Chung Moo Quan...


Order of the Solar Temple

The Order of the Solar Temple was a secret society that would go down sharing the pages of history with Jonestown, the Branch Davidians and Heaven’s Gate. But is it fair to compare the groups? When it comes to incidents of mass violence and cults, perhaps it may be unavoidable. Because whether they ended in mass murder-suicide or a different form of violence, in spite of the striking ideological differences between them, there were some similarities – in all of these groups that ended with...


The Seaside Sect

A New Zealand-born man who moved to Australia in the 1970s and started a sect, telling his eventual 9 wives and 60-plus children that he was Jesus Christ, was put behind bars for 7 years in Victoria in 2000. In spite of the fairly sensational nature of his lifestyle and crimes, his name is not well-known here, and his polygamous group gained the most media attention when a recent Bachelor Australia contestant was outed by the press for her childhood involvement. This episode we’re talking...


Joy Kuo & Iphigenie Amoutzias' Story

Joy Kuo and her husband moved to Sydney from Taiwan in 2000, and the couple both began working for the University of Sydney Library the following year. They both studied for and gained their masters degrees, and enjoyed their work. By 2012 they had had a son together, and Joy found herself wanting to help humanity in some greater way. She was looking for something she could really dedicate herself to in her career. Iphigenie Amoutzias moved to New Zealand from Germany in 1996. She completed...


Grace J. Adams and Poia Alpha, Former Branch Davidians

Grace J. Adams and Poia Alpha are two sisters from New Zealand, who joined David Koresh’s Branch Davidians in the 1980s along with their other sister, the younger Rebecca. Poia left the sect in early 1990, and Grace in late 1991. Rebecca remained with the group at the compound in Waco, Texas, and perished in the fire of April 1993. Grace and Poia have recently released their memoir, called ‘Hearken O Daughter’, and I caught up with them on a recent trip to Auckland. Special Guest: Grace J....


Outreach International – Part 2

Laura left Outreach International when she was 32 years old, having been born into the sect in the late 1970s. Hear her story as she relates the experience of being a young woman in a highly patriarchal and controlling organisation, the difficult decision to leave, the trauma of starting her life from scratch, and the joy that she's found in this new life – a kind that most of us take for granted. You'll also hear from other ex-members about their experiences, and where the sect stands...


Outreach International – Part 1

In May 2017, a sect that started in Melbourne, Australia, 50 years ago, and has been highly secretive over the last few decades, decided to change its closed-doors policy and go public with a website. Whilst up until now very little has been known about the group except by direct conversations with former believers, its members go to government schools, attend public universities, and work in everyday jobs. They could be your neighbour, your colleague, or even a friend, and you’d have no...


The Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought

In October of 2013, the British organisation Freedom Charity received a call on their hotline. The woman on the other end said that her housemate had been held captive in South London for 30 years. At the time of this call, Katy Morgan-Davies was 30 years old, and the period of her imprisonment was her entire life. She, and the women she lived with, believed that an invisible machine called JACKIE could control household appliances, read their thoughts, and would incinerate them if they...



Synanon began as an addiction support group that gathered in a grimy Californian flat in the late 1950s. It would grow to become a well-funded utopian society throughout the late ’60s and early ’70s, before declaring itself a religion in 1974. This organisation would attract Hollywood stars like Leonard Nimoy and Jane Fonda to participate in its so-called “Game”, and eventually break up married couples, force men to have vasectomies and women to have abortions, amass assets worth tens of...


Branch Davidians

2018 marks the 25-year anniversary of a 51-day siege that ended in tragedy, following a shootout between the U.S. government and members of a sect called the Branch Davidians. The gunfire exchange lasted for well over an hour, killing four U.S. agents and six Branch Davidians, and wounding their leader Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh. Yet this violence was just the beginning of an ordeal that would culminate in an inferno later to become known as the Waco Massacre. CW: references...


Bonus Episode: Aum Shinrikyo Update

Over recent days, several of the 13 incarcerated Aum Shinrikyo members sentenced to death have been moved to new facilities, prompting speculation that their execution is imminent. In this bonus episode, a follow-up to our third episode about the infamous Japanese sect, Let's Talk About Sects spoke with a woman who has researched the group for over 16 years, and has also been in direct contact with ex-members. She goes by the name of Sarah Skibtower, and she was kind enough to share her...


The Order of St Charbel

William Kamm has a 10pm curfew, and is not allowed to spend time with girls under the age of 17. He is prevented from entering the Shoalhaven district of New South Wales, and his movements and communications are monitored. These are conditions of his release after serving 9 years in jail for crimes he committed against two teenage girls – yet his followers still believe that he is the next true Pope, and that the Virgin Mary speaks to him on the 13th day of every month. CW: references to...



The Koreshans believed that the earth was hollow, and that humans lived on the concave inside surface of it. They theorised that the moon and stars, and indeed the rest of the universe, was contained within. On the outside? A void. When they formed the utopian community in Estero, Florida that they called the Koreshan Unity Settlement, a common greeting of one member to another was, “We live inside.” Research sources listed on each episode page at www.ltaspod.com. If you have been...


Universal Knowledge

Carli McConkey was a 21-year-old university graduate when she decided to attend the Mind Body Spirit Festival in Sydney, and came across the stand for Life Integration Programmes. The course they offered sounded like exactly what she needed to get her life on track and realise her potential. Little did she know that this encounter was the start of a 13-year ordeal that would see her estranged from her family, under continued financial stress, a victim and perpetrator of physical assault,...


Kenja Communication

Ken Dyers passed away 10 years ago this year, but the organisation that he spearheaded with his partner Jan Hamilton lives on. In spite of a few parallels, this Australian organisation, called Kenja, has been listed as a suppressive group by the Church of Scientology. Jan claims that Kenja has faced decades of persecution by those who want to bring them down, including a member of parliament, and charges levied at the organisation include brainwashing, exacerbation of psychological illnesses...


Aum Shinrikyo

Twenty years ago this year, Japan was to become a nuclear wasteland, according to the leader of a sect who claimed that the only survivors would be his followers and 10% of the major cities. It was in the lead up to this year of the predicted apocalypse, 1997, that he ordered shocking acts that would eventually result in his group being labelled a terrorist organisation, and himself and 12 other sect members being sentenced to death. CW: references to physical and emotional abuse,...


The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God

Ugandan cult The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God was one of the deadliest in world history, with the number of people who died similar to the infamous Jonestown massacre, and some say even more. The mastermind behind this cult? A woman named Credonia Mwerinde, who said she was receiving messages directly from the Virgin Mary. CW: references to physical and emotional abuse, controlling behaviours, and murder. Please consider whether you would like to listen on...


The Family

There is a 95-year-old woman in a Melbourne nursing home who dotes on a plastic baby doll. You wouldn’t guess it to look at her, but this is a woman who amassed a multi-million dollar fortune, destroyed families, and affected the lives of numerous people giving them ongoing psychological issues, some of which ended in suicide. Former police detective Lex de Man said of this women to 60 Minutes, “Of all the crimes that I investigated, she is the most evil person that I’ve ever met.” CW:...


Let's Talk About Sects Trailer

Let's Talk About Sects is a new Australian podcast about cults around the world. We cover a different sect each episode, launching on Wednesday 20th September and then releasing an episode each month. Hope you can join us.