Cults. They bring to mind master manipulators Jim Jones, Anne Hamilton Byrne and Charles Manson. Mass suicide, child abduction, routine drug experimentation...

Sects, Lies & Cults

Location:

The Great Hall, Level 5, Tower Building
2007 NSW
Australia

Venue:
Vivid Ideas Exchange, University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
Price:
From: $25.00
This is an image of children from a cult dressed in similar clothing with matching bowl haircuts
This is an image of children from a cult dressed in similar clothing with matching bowl haircuts

Speakers

Sarah Steel Headshot

Sarah Steel

Sarah started Let's Talk About Sects from her bedroom, and the podcast has since been downloaded over 2.5 million times, won the 2019 Australian Podcast Award for Independent True Crime, and was an Honoree at the 2020 Webby Awards. Her work has been featured on ABC Radio National and ABC News online, and she is currently writing her debut non-fiction book about cults and cultic behaviours across society for Pan Macmillan.

Laura Sullivan

Laura Sullivan

Laura grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, in a highly controlling and little-known Australian "church" called Outreach International. Since leaving the sect at 32, she moved to Sydney's inner west, continued her work in television production, and has turned her note-finding passion into the art project Found By Laura with multiple exhibitions and a coffee table book.

Claire Ashman headshot

Claire Ashman

Claire grew up in a very strict religious movement before being married as a teenager and following her husband into the Nowra compound of The Order of St Charbel. After challenging the authority of leader William Kamm, she was evicted with her 8 children in tow. Claire was determined that her children would not suffer as she did, being home-schooled and ignorant about the world and its ways. She has since published her memoir, Lessons from a Cult Survivor.

Laura McConnell-Conti

Laura McConnell Conti

Laura McConnell Conti left a rural sect with no name, sometimes called The Truth or the Two by Twos, when she was 19 years old. She rebuilt her life, spent 17 years working in finance, then co-founded the social enterprise #GoKindly. Laura is now based in Melbourne and is a feminist activist and storyteller, passionate about supporting women from non-mainstream backgrounds (like her own) to study, work, and have successful careers.

Event Details

Cults. They bring to mind master manipulators Jim Jones, Anne Hamilton Byrne and Charles Manson. Mass suicide, child abduction, routine drug experimentation and even murder. But beyond the sensational headlines, thousands of cults avoid the spotlight in countries around the world.

Join writer, filmmaker and podcaster Sarah Steel as she unveils the seductive power of sects and the coercive world of cults. Sarah’s award-winning podcast Let’s Talk About Sects provides an outlet for those who have been involved in cults and had untold difficulty liberating themselves from entrapment. Sarah has spoken to ex-members of David Koresh's Branch Davidians, Anne Hamilton Byrne's The Family and others to reveal why people are attracted to charismatic and controlling leaders, and how you might be more susceptible to cult-like thinking than you realise.

After sharing her insights, Sarah speaks with a panel of women who have direct experience in cultic groups including:

  • Laura Sullivan, who spent her first 32 years in an Australian/Canadian cult that you couldn't even google until very recently. Laura feels that Outreach International stole her youth and has fought hard to regain control of her life and womanhood since leaving.
  • Claire Ashman, who was raised in one strict religion only to enter William Kamm's infamous doomsday sect The Order of St Charbel after getting married as a teenager. Claire was eventually evicted with her 8 children, not even knowing how to open a bank account.
  • Laura McConnell Conti, who left The Truth as a 19-year-old in 1999. Laura found herself alone, knowing little about the world outside her community, and is now passionate about raising awareness of the lives of women inside Fundamentalist Christianity.

Let’s take a closer look at what keeps followers enthralled and how this mirrors other examples of coercive control – from one-on-one domestic abuse relationships to totalitarian regimes. Ultimately, can understanding cult dynamics help communities make better decisions and improve society as a whole?

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Access and Inclusion

  • Wheelchair accessible - Access to the venue is suitable for wheelchairs (toilets, ramps/lifts etc.) and designated wheelchair spaces are available.