A conference on men’s health at Lennox Head this weekend has links to controversial alternative therapy provider Universal Medicine.
On Tuesday, Echonetdaily ran an article by the event’s MC Adam Warburton on a local bricklayer who had managed to turn his life around after falling into a pattern of heavy drug use and alcohol abuse.
The story was offered to Echonetdaily by Mr Warburton, who submitted it on behalf of conference organisers Real Media Real Change (RMRC).
He subsequently admitted to Universal Medicine’s involvement in the establishment of RMRC.
Mr Warburton told Echonetdaily that both he and the story’s subject, Tony Steenson, are members of Universal Medicine, which he said was ‘like a religion’.
Last year Echonetdaily and a number of other news sources ran a series of articles on Universal Medicine, which has been described as a ‘cult’ by its critics, following publication of a story about one woman’s experiences with the group on Sydney-based medical website Medical Observer.
That story is still online and can be read in full here.
Group leader Serge Benhayon told local media at the time he was being targeted by a small group of detractors.
In a letter to Echonetdaily recently, Mr Benhayon has denied the group is a cult.
‘I run a business – there is no cult, no group and no members. As a client of Universal Medicine, the business, you choose to attend, you pay, you get the service and you leave, returning if you so choose to,’ he said.
A complaint to NSW Health Care Complaints Commission last year about five doctors connected Universal Medicine was subsequently dismissed.
The complaint was lodged by Queensland-based alternative therapist Esther Rockett, who also blogs about the group using the alias ‘Darkly Venus’.
She told Echonetdaily, ‘those were not acted upon because I was unable to name any patients harmed’.
Ms Rockett said that an event sponsored by Real Media Real Change marking International Women’s Day at Lennox Head in March this year was deregistered as an official International Women’s Day event after she lodged a complaint about the group.
She said the new conference suggested a change in tack for the group which previously ‘targeted women with its therapies… [and] has now turned its attention to men’.
Mr Warburton told Echonetdaily the conference organisers ‘find ourselves in a difficult position because of the detractors, who we have a legal case against’.
Ms Rockett says there is no ongoing litigation between herself and Universal Medicine.
‘We are the target of a troll campaign,’ Mr Warburton told Echonetdaily.
As a result, every time we do something publicly we have to justify who we are, as if we have some hidden agenda,’ he said.
‘It’s a difficult situation to be in. If I put Universal Medicine in [publicity] it looks like we’re actively recruiting. If not, it looks like we’re trying to recruit underhandedly.
‘That’s why we put the origins information in the Real Media Real Change website.
‘At that conference, you won’t hear about Universal Medicine once. It’s not about that,’ he said.
According to the RMRC website the ‘team met at the courses and workshops of a highly respected and sought after esoteric healing practitioner and presenter by the name of Serge Benhayon, founder of complementary healing clinic Universal Medicine’.
‘Over a period of 48 hours the RMRC team would witness how hate-bloggers would successfully co-opt the media to have highly-charged and defamatory lies about Benhayon and his family (including his young adult children), appear in print from the local paper to the New York Post.’
The website goes on to claim trial by media for the group and its programs.
Ms Rockett told Echonetdaily the recently added information page only appeared on the website after she posted about the connection on her blog.
The conference takes place this Sunday November 17 at the Lennox Head Community Centre.
This article has been amended following publication, taking into consideration feedback from both supporters and critics of Universal Medicine.