Kenja Communication, or simply Kenja, is an Australian company founded in 1982 by Kenneth Dyers and his partner, Jan Hamilton. It has gained public attention through court trials involving various members of the group, leader Ken Dyers's suicide, and the group's alleged involvement in the Cornelia Rau case.
- 1 About Kenja
- 2 Kenja and mental illness
- 3 Apprehended violence orders
- 4 Popular culture: film and media
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The word Kenja was derived from the first letters of the names of the two founders: Ken Dyers and Jan Hamilton. They later discovered it meant "wise man" (although "wise person" is probably closer) in Japanese. Kenja offices in Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney were called the Personal Evolvement Centre, the Melbourne Centre for Effective Communication, and the Human Communication Centre, respectively. The Parramatta Centre for Effective Communication has since closed.
Kenja describes its purpose on its website:
To increase understanding of the spiritual nature of man and our relation to the human spirit, coupled with practical training in the basics of effective communication – time, space and energy.
The site also states that Kenja Communication is "neither political nor religious". Kenja describes itself as being an advocate for the empowerment of the individual, ready to assist them be in charge of their own destiny.
A former Liberal Party parliamentarian Stephen Mutch, with detailed knowledge of high-ranking members described Kenja as "a sinister organisation designed to fill the pockets and stroke the egos"  under Parliamentary Privilege in the New South Wales Legislative Council in 1993.
Kenja training focuses on a form of meditation called Energy Conversion, which is described as a way to "permanently eliminate the suppressed emotion, thought or energy that can divert us from what we want to achieve". Energy Conversion Sessions consist of two people sitting opposite each other and looking into each other's eyes for a period of time, and costs about $130.
Theatre Documentary: Guilty Until Proven Innocent
For 5 years, the Kenja group produced, in Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra, a theatre documentary called Guilty Until Proven Innocent. The documentary purported to expose "a 15-year-long attack on the reputation of Ken Dyers", and concludes the perceived attack on Dyers is part of a much wider attack on the "spiritual liberty" of the general public.
In the Downing Centre Local Court, on 26 August 2008, Magistrate R. Clisdell made the following observation about the documentary in his summary: "I find the lecture series to be a continuation of that harassment, in that a reasonable person in the position of (victim's name) could be harassed and intimidated by that performance".
The City of Melbourne cancelled the venue booking of the 2009 Kenja Eisteddfod. It created some controversy as Kenja claimed it was probably connected with the theatre documentary, scheduled to be shown after the event.
The theatre documentary continues to be shown in Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney.
Classification as a cult or sect
Kenja Communications has been widely reported as a cult/sect in the High Court of Australia, the NSW Parliament, The Fairfax and News Limited Media by Robert Manne (an eminent professor of politics at La Trobe University), and by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Both Ken Dyers and Jan Hamilton have claimed that the word cult is pejorative, and allege they are targeted in a "witch hunt" over allegations of sexual misconduct and in relation to the Cornelia Rau incident.
Kenja and mental illness
In 2005, a mentally ill former Kenja member, Cornelia Rau, gained widespread media attention in Australia due to being unlawfully detained for a period of 10 months by the Australian government. Before this, she had disappeared and later turned up in North Queensland, where Aborigines alerted the police after being concerned about her behaviour. She told them she was Anna Brotmeyer (and later Anna Schmidt) from Germany. Immigration officials assumed she was an illegal immigrant and failed to diagnose her schizophrenia, leading to her detention.
Hamilton denied any wrongdoing, saying: "We are not responsible for Cornelia's condition...we are not a cult. It's a witch-hunt." Rau's sister, other family members, and several members of Kenja present at the time formed a different opinion while observing Rau's involvement in the group. Hamilton also claimed, retrospectively, Rau was "scattered, disassociated" as a member of the group, and that she was asked to leave because she needed help and the group "couldn't help her". However, witnesses quoted in the media say she was humiliated and expelled. The claim has been made that Rau was driven to the airport on the night of the Melbourne Eistedfod, put on an aeroplane to Sydney, and told never to return to the group. Three days later she was picked up by New South Wales police driving on the wrong side of the road.
Rau was incarcerated in the German psychiatric system following a trip while on medication vacation in October 2008. In February 2009, Rau was arrested and imprisoned in Jordan after behaving erratically and refusing to pay bills.
A male member of Kenja named Richard Leape, who was being treated for schizophrenia, disappeared around 1993 and has not been seen since. His sister, Annette, says she once found him in the street "totally paranoid and irrational, saying Nazis were going to get him". She was concerned that many other people had "developed very serious mental illnesses" from their time in Kenja, and said she was "appalled" to know Kenja still exists.
A young man who was a Kenja member for two years, Michael Beaver, was also diagnosed with (and hospitalised for) chronic schizophrenia. He blamed Kenja, and said he has heard of four other people who had severe problems since leaving Kenja. Beaver later killed himself, writing in his suicide note that Kenja was "partly to blame".
Apprehended violence orders
Two Apprehended Violence Order-related court cases involving senior Kenja members have come before the courts.
Case number one
Senior members of Kenja Communication were cross-examined in a court case involving a father and his daughter, who made serious charges of sexual molestation against Dyers. The Kenja members claim to have been assaulted by the father was rejected by the court and the charges against the man were dropped.
Jan Hamilton was cross-examined in a court case involving an alleged attempt to threaten a young girl, who had made serious sexual allegations against her husband, Kenneth Dyers, prior to his suicide.
On 26 August 2008, the young lady, formerly a member of the Kenja group, successfully secured an AVO against the co-founder of the group. Jan Hamilton was ordered not to stalk, harass, or intimidate the woman as part of a two-year AVO. The magistrate forwarded details of the trial to the attorney general, requesting an investigation on criminal grounds for perverting the course of justice.
Hamilton vigorously denied the allegations and indicated she would appeal the decision; however, no appeal was made to the AVO and Hamilton was ordered to pay legal costs, totalling $37,500, to the victim.
Popular culture: film and media
Beyond Our Ken
The Kenja group was the subject of the 2008 documentary Beyond Our Ken, directed by Luke Walker and Melissa Maclean. The film was nominated for Best Documentary in 2008 by the Australian Film Institute and Film Critics Circle Australia. Beyond Our Ken was voted the third-most popular documentary at the Melbourne International Film Festival.
The international premiere of Beyond Our Ken at Toronto's Hot Docs Film Festival generated controversy when Kenja flew from Australia to protest at the screenings.
Department of Defence
Channel Ten News reported on a Defence Department spokesperson making the following statement in relation to the yearly advertisements placed in the Fairfax Press newspapers: "The Army will contact Kenja Communication shortly to issue a notice to cease and desist using the Army's Rising Sun Badge".
Returned Service League (RSL) Australia
David McLaughlin, president of the RSL, has described the use of the Rising Sun badge in the yearly advertisement as an "insult" to the logo, or symbol.
- "Kenja Communication". Kenja Trust. Cite error: Invalid
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- Robert Manne. "The Unknown Story of Cornelia Rau". The Monthly.
- "Legislative Council Hansard". Parliament of New South Wales. 22 April 1993. Retrieved 22 January 2007.
- "'Guilty Until Proven Innocent' Theatre Documentary". Kenja Trust.
- "Kenja Attacked: The attack on spiritual freedom". Kenja Trust.
- "Campaign to clear cult leader". The Sydney Morning Herald. 11 August 2007.
- "Abuse case: 'staff asked to lie'". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 July 2008.
- "Media Watch: Paying to Clear A Name – Again (17/08/2009)". Media Watch (TV program). Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
- "Controversial group ousted from town hall". 13 July 2009.
- "The Psychology of Cults". ABC Radio National. 2 December 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
- "Cult leader says sex charges part of witch-hunt". The Sydney Morning Herald. 28 October 2005.
- "Reminder of a troubled trainee". The Sydney Morning Herald. 12 February 2005.
- "Cornelia Rau Chronology". Four Corners.
- Davies, Lisa (10 February 2005). "This is the face behind a cult". the Daily Telegraph (Australia).
- Davies, Lisa (8 February 2005). "Cult linked to Cornelia". Herald Sun. p. 7.
- Naughton, Kevin (13 February 2005). "Rau angry at sister's visit – but family sees hopeful signs". The Sunday Mail. p. 8.
- Daniel Ziffer (8 February 2005). "Rau's sister blames cult". The Age. Immigration features (Melbourne).
- Wainwright, Robert (12 February 2005). "Dance photos reminder of a troubled trainee". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 4.
- Davies, Lisa (11 February 2005). "The humiliation of Cornelia Rau". The Daily Telegraph. p. 9.
- "Germans held Rau for weeks". The Sydney Morning Herald. 27 November 2008.
- "Cornelia Rau locked up in Jordan". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 February 2009.
- Davies, Lisa (6 December 2007). "Cult strikes back – Kenja critic assault a lie: court told". The Daily Telegraph. p. 35.
- Kaye, Byron (26 June 2008). "Woman's fake beard was 'bogus'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 September 2008.
- "Cult founder warned off after 'bizarre' audition ploy". The Sydney Morning Herald. 27 August 2008. Retrieved 11 September 2008.
- Jones, Cindy. "Kenja group 'destructive' and 'sinister' claims MP." Sun-Herald 13 December 1992 p. 7
- Mostyn, Suzanne. "MPs told of cult leader's sexual and mental abuse." Sydney Morning Herald 27 April 1993 p. 6
- Papadopoulos, Nick. "Founder of Kenja to seek no-bill after partial acquittal on sex charges." Sydney Morning Herald 16 April 1996 p. 10