As a child, Laura McConnell Conti was raised not to trust outsiders.
Even at school, she knew to keep to herself, not to play with or dress like the other children in her western NSW farming town. She'd been convinced that, no matter how kind or good they seemed, they would only attempt to 'put the devil' into her heart.
Laura had little in common with her classmates, anyway. She didn't listen to music or watch television. She didn't read magazines or dance or play sport. All of that was forbidden.
"I didn't even really care at the time. I believed, like my community, that these things are put [in front of you] to be a temptation, and that you mustn't give into them," she told Mamamia. "That suffering is your way."
Laura's world was instead confined to her extended family and the fundamentalist Christian sect to which they belonged.
The Truth: "My family lived very complex double lives."
This sect doesn't have a sole leader, or headquarters. It doesn't even have a name. It's often referred to as 'The Truth' or 'Two By Twos' or 'Friends and Workers' by members, who are numbered in the hundreds of thousands, primarily across Australia, Europe and the United States.
Laura's family had been part of the sect for at least four generations.
"My particular branch of the group has quite a large following in regional Australia, because they can operate fairly autonomously. They can run their own businesses, their own farms, and not really come into contact too much with mainstream society," she said.
Laura and other former members have described the sect's teachings as being based on interpretation of particular sections of the Bible. There are reportedly clear expectations about dress and behaviour. There is, for example, said to be a preoccupation with female modesty that sees women made to wear floor-length dresses and banned from having short hair.
Leadership is provided by 'Workers', who are senior members of the community equivalent to, say, a pastor or priest. But otherwise, the structure is bare-boned. There is no text capturing the group's doctrine, nor are there churches or permanent places of worship (in the eyes of the sect, to erect and revere such a building would be to worship a false idol and to distract oneself from proving one's worth to God and Jesus, Laura explained).
Instead, members gather twice weekly in each other's homes: once on Wednesday night, and once on Sunday morning.
Laura, who will speak more about her experience on Tuesday night's episode of Insight on SBS, recalls those meetings as "not very joyous".
"There is a lot of focus on being very formal and being very devout," she told Mamamia. "My group, in particular, were very obsessed with how much suffering they were going through, in order to prove their worthiness and their godliness. It wasn't a happy experience."
Still, being raised away from the trappings of pop culture and surrounded by cousins and a tight-knit community wasn't all bad, Laura stresses. As a small child, she found it to be "a very nurturing, very loving environment".