US religious cult selling Melbourne base
The Australian base of a US religious cult — whose founder quit amid a wave of allegations of sexual assault — is for sale on Melbourne’s fringe.
The Institute in Basic Life Principles’ “Yarra training facility” at 111 Mangans Rd, Lilydale, is on the market for $6 million.
The 3.36ha Lilydale property is being marketed as a “developer’s dream”, including training areas, two 24-bedroom apartment complexes, two four-bedroom “American-style” homes and one three-bedroom “manager’s home”.
The IBLP claims millions have attended its seminars since the cult was founded by Bill Gothard in 1961.
The cult states its purpose is to provide instruction on how to “succeed in life” by following principles found in Scripture — but it has been marred by serious allegations in the US of sexual harassment and abuse as well as cover-ups.
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The IBLP incorporates several “programs”, including its advanced training institute, which has a branch at the Lilydale property.
That is a Bible-based homeschooling program whose most notorious alumni are the stars of canned US reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting.
The show was engulfed by scandal in 2015 after the eldest son admitted sexually abusing girls, including several of his sisters.
He is believed to have attended a IBLP-run facility after admitting the abuse.
Gothard resigned in 2014 after more than 30 women made sexual harassment and molestation claims against him.
A lawsuit against him and the cult was launched by ex-members last year alleging physical and sexual abuse.
He has denied all the claims.
The lawsuit alleges that IBLP is liquidating its assets and calls for a trust to be established to ensure alleged victims can be compensated.
The Lilydale property also features three large office complexes, one large conference centre, two smaller conference rooms and a commercial kitchen with seating for more than 100 people.
MBA Multisell director Mike Brown says the site was originally a Commonwealth Bank training facility and was bought by the IBLP in the 1990s.
“They’ve been running home schooling groups out of there as well as housing single mothers and certain homeless families on short term arrangements and obviously they have various functions for the IBLP once a year as well for the ministry,” he says.
“They’re basically selling it because the maintenance and cost of keeping the building is way too high and it’s starting to fall apart and they don’t really need that big a property.”
Brown says the IBLP will use the proceeds of the sale to buy a smaller base in the area.
A catering company leases the site’s commercial kitchen.
“There are various income streams from four houses that are rented out on the property plus the commercial kitchen together with the IBLP office for advanced home schooling,” Brown says.
“(But) there’s no lease agreement with anyone, they do it all by handshake, so it’s quite bizarre.”
To make an offer a refundable “registration fee” of $10,000 must be made. The listing states this will be held in a trust until the closing date of July 22.
Brown says this is to ensure only serious offers were made and there are “probably 15 serious contenders” so far.
A mix of developers, retirement village operators and church or not-for-profit organisations had shown interest in the site, he says.
IBLP Australian director Robin Harrison has been contacted for comment.
This article from The Herald Sun was originally published as “Controversial American religious group Institute in Basic Life Principles selling Melbourne base“.