A leading Australian anti-vaxxer and Senate candidate has a secret past as a key member of a bizarre quasi-religious cult whose leader was jailed for sex crimes against the children of cult members.
Dr Isaac Golden, a homeopath from Gisborne, Victoria, has confirmed he was heavily involved in the organisation but denied encouraging or being involved in any abuse. The cult was unnamed but dubbed 'The Seaside Sect" in early media reports. It was active in the 1970s and '80s after forming in Goulburn, NSW and then Sydney.
The cult’s leader Ian Lowe, now dead, was a former policeman from New Zealand who reinvented himself as Alistah Laishkochev, a paedophile with a harem of nine wives and 63 of his own children, and a belief system based on UFOs and Hawaiian-Old Testament spirituality, according to court documents and insider accounts.
Dr Golden is the national secretary and Victorian director of the Health Australia Party (HAP) which promotes natural medicine and distrusts mainstream medicine and medical research. The party states in election and publicity material it is not anti-vaccination but rather supports parents’ right to choose. However, it wanted to overturn the Turnbull government’s "no-jab, no-pay" policy, which denied welfare benefits to families with unvaccinated children.
The party gained the coveted first position on the NSW Senate ballot in 2016, from where it received 1.18 per cent of first preference votes and negligible results in three other states.
Dr Golden's PhD contended that homeopathic immunisation had a 90 per cent success rate on his own patients. He sells "nosodes" or homeopathic vaccines from his Gisborne clinic. The World Health Organisation (WHO) this year described "vaccine hesitancy" as in its top 10 threats to global health. This month Samoa was ravaged by a measles epidemic in unvaccinated children during which 78 people died.
Polygamy and wife swapping
Dr Golden stood for the Senate in 2016 and for a Victorian lower house seat in 2018. He admits his historical role in the cult. The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald understand he has never publicly disclosed his role in the cult despite political ambitions, two university affiliations and a thriving homeopathic practice. He describes himself in party material online as a “globally respected researcher, author, and speaker” who has worked for the Indian and Cuban governments as a “world authority” on homeopathic vaccines.
The cult practised polygamy and wife-swapping. Many of the wives and children were given Hawaiian names by Lowe, who decreed he be called 'The Controller' and limited his followers' access to food, according to court and police files. Former The Bachelor star Keira Maguire has said she is one of Lowe’s children, although she was removed from the cult by her mother when she was five.
Lowe required some male followers to effectively hand their daughters to him to look after in the cult's run-down Bells Beach compound while the men lived elsewhere. At the time it was not obvious that he was abusing some of the children.
The children were often unaware who their real parents were. They were home-schooled then sent en masse to Torquay Primary School. Lowe told followers he was a reincarnated God or Jesus figure, that extra-terrestrial spirituality was real and he was able to see visions from other worlds.
Lowe bestowed two cult identities on Dr Golden, according to former cult members. One was as "Yitsach" Golden and the other was as the reincarnation of Samuel Hahnemann, the German homeopathy pioneer from the 1700s. Corporate records show Lowe was a business partner of Dr Golden’s in a Victorian-based natural medicine business called Aurum at the time the child rapes were occurring.
Dr Golden was awarded a PhD by Swinburne University’s Graduate School of Integrative Medicine in 2004 and was attached to Federation University in Ballarat as an honorary research fellow until 2016. Two years after his Swinburne PhD the university discontinued complementary medicine programs.
Sexual abuse convictions
Lowe was jailed in 2000 for seven years and six months' for 20 child sex offences and one charge of reckless injury after he threw a plank of wood at the head of one of the children. Court records show the child offences involved four cult children aged between seven and 11 in sheds and bedrooms on the Bells Beach property. One of them was Laishkochav's own child. The other three were the children of devotees.
The cult leader faced further charges in NSW in 2003 over alleged indecent assaults on two children in the 1970s. He was deported to New Zealand after being released from jail and died in 2012.
The former Victorian policeman who pursued Lowe was Detective Sergeant Doug Smith, who also led Taskforce Sano’s sex crime investigations into Cardinal George Pell. He says Lowe’s crimes were “a despicable breach of trust” against “young, vulnerable children who couldn’t defend themselves against someone they saw as a God-like figure.”
Court documents from Lowe’s trials show that he shared a futon bed with a roster of his "wives" but also roamed the two-storey beach-house at night raping cult children and isolating them in sheds and toilets, where rapes and assaults also occurred. One survivor’s testimony shows that he made her promise not to tell anyone what had happened and that God would punish her if she did.
“He would always be wearing a sarong,” one survivor told police when she was 15, “and try to wake me up shaking me and kissing my face and mouth.”
Former policeman Doug Smith says many of the cult’s survivors were “severely traumatised” but Lowe refused to admit his crimes despite eventually being found guilty on multiple counts. “By the time I charged him he was a broken old man who denied every allegation.”
Psychological reports heard in court reveal Lowe had no diagnosed mental illnesses, no history of drugs, alcohol or other crimes, and was “dishevelled … easy-going but very suspicious”. One psychiatrist who saw Lowe in August 2000 wrote that he had an “ongoing personality disorder … of the narcissistic and charismatic type.”
The Age and Herald have established through police and court files that Lowe was raised by his grandparents in Auckland and left school at 15. He became a baker, a policeman and then worked in the electronics industry. He married a Cook Islander and became a Mormon and then moved to the United States. He arrived in NSW in 1969, changed his name by deed poll to Alistah Laishkochev and started preaching that he was a God-like figure.
The former cult member says all former members regret their involvement with Lowe. “We trusted him with our lives,” the man says. “I can’t believe we were so blind. I knew there was something not right, and it is the biggest regret of my life.”
The Health Australia Party did not respond to requests for comment. A legal letter from Dr Golden's lawyer, Ralph Manno, said any imputation that Dr Golden "enabled or encouraged the offending by Mr Lowe" would be "a very serious defamation and grossly irresponsible".
"Any allegation is entirely without substance," the letter said.