If your obsession with true crime is anything like ours, chances are you’ve already raced through the first three episodes of Disney+’s new limited series, The Clearing.
And while the story itself is fictional, it is based on JP Pomare’s novel, In The Clearing, which draws inspiration from the real-life workings of an Australian cult, ‘The Family’.
Below, we debunk fact from fiction, with everything we know about the true events that inspired The Clearing.
Is ‘The Kindred’ Based On A Real Cult?
Much like the female cult leader Adrienne in the show, ‘The Family’ was led by Anne Hamilton Byrne.
Anne and her husband Bill allegedly acquired many children during the 1960s through to the 1990s, either through adoption scams or from cult members, and raised them as their own.
This system of ‘acquiring’ children is not dissimilar to the plot of The Clearing, where cult leader Adrienne, and two other women referred to by the children as ‘Aunties’ forge adoptions and even kidnap one child from the street in order to grow their cult.
The children in the series also all bear a striking resemblance to each other, thanks to bleached blonde hair and matching uniform-style outfits. According to The Guardian this, too, is fact, and something Anne did to make the children she acquired look like a family.
The show’s setting in a regional Australian town is also based on truth. The Guardian reported that The Family’s motto was “unseen, unknown, unheard”. To stay true to this, the cult operated in almost total secrecy from a rural property near Eildon in Victoria, per the BBC.
How Were The Children In ‘The Family’ Treated?
Several children who were held captive by ‘The Family’ have come forward in recent years.
Speaking to news.com.au, Anouree Treena-Byrne, who was forcibly taken from her mother when she was three years old, said children in ‘The Family’ were controlled by drugs.
“We were given all kinds of other drugs. Drugs to control and calm us down.”
“What I would do a lot is just sit on my bed and look out the window. I didn’t move. I was in a catatonic state and I also was mute. I didn’t speak for lengthy periods of time,” she added.
She also described that she and the other children were regularly subject to physical abuse.
“We were routinely belted, and absolutely belted and beaten, not just hitting but serious beltings. There was drowning. Our heads were put in buckets of water and held under. We don’t know how long for but long enough for us to think we were going to die.”
How did ‘The Family’ come to an end and where is Anne Hamilton-Byrne now?
The property was officially raided in 1987, after two of the children, Sarah Moore and Leanne Creese, left and alerted police.
Despite their testimonies of abuse, Anne and Bill both only received $5000 fines on counts of fraud.
Bill died in 2001, while Anne died at 98 in 2019, after a long battle with dementia.
Where to watch The Clearing in Australia
The first three episodes of The Clearing are now available to stream on Disney+. New episodes are released every Wednesday.