27.4 C
Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Pyramid scheme circles sisters

Latest News

‘Hollywood’ drug squads over the top

I guess we have to thank Hollywood for the enduring myth that a black-clad squad of elite 'blokes', preferably with cool helicopters, from the capital are needed to crack down on really serious crime in hick parts of the country like Mullumbimby.

Other News

Lismore urges REX to reconsider service cancellation

The regional airline Regional Express (REX) announced yesterday that five services, including its Lismore service, would cease once government support through the RANS program is discontinued at the end of March.

Spots for kids circus nearly full

Mullumbimby’s Spaghetti Circus kicked off its first term with a record number of enrolments and there is much fun to be had following a difficult COVID year.

Super swim challenge accepted

A group of mates from Brunswick Heads, Byron Bay and Lennox Head, recently formed a swim team known as the Anti Budgie Boardriders for the purpose of taking part in the Starlight Foundations Super Swim Challenge.  

Call to protect oceans from plastic and pollution

A new sign has been installed at Main Beach, Byron Bay, calling for increased awareness and collective action on the issue of marine debris and pollution. 

Cut it down – Tweed Councillors at odds over future of forest red gum

‘We should be active and take the tree down,’ Cr Polglase told the Tweed Shire Council meeting last Thursday, referring to a significant forest red gum and koala food tree in Tweed Heads West.

Interview with James McMillan, founder of the Byron Surf Festival

With the Byron Bay Surf Festival just days away, founder James McMillan took a few minutes to talk to Seven about the awesome things planned for the coming weekend.


Staff reporters

A classic pyramid scheme has duped a number of women in the northern rivers by cloaking itself in themes of new-age spirituality and women’s empowerment.

Calling upon the power of sisterhood, the ‘Women’s Wisdom Circle’ invites women to part with a $5,000 ‘unconditional gift’ to join as a ‘seed’ with the lure of an eventual $40,000 if they ultimately blossom into a ‘lotus’.

If this sounds too good to be true, it is. The Circle is the latest version of the classic pyramid scam that has been doing the rounds for decades. The schemes inevitably collapse, leaving the vast majority of ‘seeds’ out of pocket.

Similar schemes have operated since the 90s, spreading like spot fires, and it is illegal to originate or even to participate in them.

Echonetdaily attempted to contact the proponents of the Women’s Wisdom Circle yesterday, via their website. Every link on the site that purported to provide a contact led to a ‘page not found’ failure message. Evidently the scheme’s proponents do not want to be found – or found out.

What the Circle promises

An Echo source, who wishes to remain anonymous, was recently invited to join the Circle. An introductory document sent to them via an encrypted email address states: ‘By joining our circle of women you enter a magnified creative field where the art of giving and receiving is balanced and aligned to support the flourishing of our soul’s purpose and deepest heart’s longing’.

Having joined the Circle, a ‘seed’ then recruits two more ‘seeds’ with $5,000 each and grows into a ‘sapling’. The new ‘seeds’ in turn find two more seeds and the sapling ‘blossoms’. After one more round, the original invitee becomes a ‘lotus’ and receives a $5,000 ‘gift’ from each of the eight incoming seeds beneath them, totalling $40,000 (see diagram). The Circle then splits and those next in line wait for eight more recruits before becoming their own lotus.

According to the ACCC website: ‘Pyramid schemes are an illegal and very risky get-rich-quick scheme. In a typical pyramid scheme, a member pays to join. The only way for the member to ever recover any money is to convince other people to join up and to part with their money as well.’

The defining feature of a pyramid scheme, and its relative, the ponzi scheme, is that no actual value is being created. Money from the majority at the bottom of the ‘Circle’ is simply redistributed to the minority at the top – exactly the hierarchical structure the sisterhood wars against.

Why it will collapse

Collapse is inevitable. It is basic mathematics. In order for the first ‘lotus’ to receive their $40,000, eight ‘seeds’ in the Circle must part with $5,000 each.

If each of these seeds is to reach the ‘lotus’ position, 64 new ‘seeds’ must be found. For these to get their payout/gift, 512 recruits (and $2.56 million) are required. Within two more generations the number of recruits would exceed the female population of Byron Shire, and within three more, of Australia. It is inevitable that the scheme runs out of new recruits, and when it does, anyone who has not been ‘gifted’ is left hanging.

The whistleblower resident added, ‘Sadly, it’s generally the well-heeled, well-connected and charismatic women – women who are regarded as spiritual leaders of the sisterhood – who complete their circle and “blossom”. It’s the women who come in late, and often out of desperation, who are usually left hanging. This preys upon trust and goodwill nurtured over decades, throws spirituality onto the pyre, and sacrifices the lot for a quick buck.’

The Women’s Circle is careful to state that the $5,000 entrance cost is an ‘unconditional gift’, made with ‘no expectation of return’. Otherwise, even they admit, the ACCC would crack down.

The Circle’s originators claim that ‘Since the early 1980s, this circle has remained unbroken, and has grown in numbers, strength and integrity’.

Yet identical schemes with different names in the US, UK and Australia have shattered, leaving thousands ripped off and manipulated. It is only a question of time before the same thing happens here.

A revealing report by a woman caught in a ‘Women’s Empowerment Circle’ can be found at:  http://www.realitysandwich.com/womens_circle_pyramid.

Additional resources

Intelligent analysis of why the ‘Gifting Circle’ structure is not a sacred or natural way of distributing resources

A string of articles

An almost positive view

A real gift circle

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. Please don’t join! I did and although I was funded by a donor, I was duped into further half-backing a woman on my own circle and a woman on another circle because of the pushiness and desperation of the Desserts. My first two Desserts got their $40,000 gift – but they had to back and half-back women in order to make the Circles move. They claimed we could contact the “Senior Sisters” at any time if there were problems. And there were problems. When the group collapsed, only one of the previous Desserts stepped in. We had been in the Circle(s) for 10 months by then. She saw to it that I was half-reimbursed and another woman was fully reimbursed, but she was adamant that no-one should ever contact her again and no surprise, there was no way to reach the Senior Sisters about the remaining $2500 which I do not have. Here’s the reason, my own daughter convinced me to join the group. The half-backing for my invitee went to my daughter. Now, as a result of her jumbled interpretations of mystical thought & “manifesting” she does not feel like speaking to me – at all. What a surprise when you owe someone money. Now, I love my daughter to pieces. That’s why I joined the Circle. But this really hurts. When I joined, I had been in a nearly fatal accident & could not walk or work all year. Could ill afford giving this money. Please out these charlatans, or force the “Senior Sisters” to respond!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Local fisherfolk caught in the parking fine net

FIsherfolk have been caught in the net of parking fines designed to stop travellers parking up for the night on the Tweed Coast Road and they are seeking help to access their beaches at night without fines.

Family Court scrapped

Despite overwhelming opposition from Australia’s family law specialists and advocates, the federal Liberal-Nationals government and cross benchers scrapped the Family Law Court and subsumed it into the circuit courts last week.

Cavanbah centre gets a taste of 3×3 basketball

The Byron Beez basketball team in collaboration with the U League hosted a 3x3 tournament at the Cavanbah centre at the end of January that attracted 30 teams.

Northern Rivers policeman accused of youth assault acquitted

Magistrate Michael Dakin has ordered a common assault charge against a former Byron-based policeman be dropped after an altercation involving a naked youth in Byron Bay three years ago.