11.5 C
Byron Shire
June 25, 2024

Benhayon’s ‘loss will be felt’ by Lismore chamber

Latest News

$6.8 million Tweed pound contract awarded

The Tweed Shire Council has awarded a $6.8 million contract for design and construction of a new state-of-the-art animal pound and rehoming centre.

Other News

Daniel Mookhey walks the line with NSW budget

NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey's second budget in nine months, unveiled last week, was a classic Labor document in its support for education and health, somewhat brave in its slugging of property investors, and disingenuous in its blaming of the GST carve-up for the financial woes of NSW going forward.

Emergency tower works stopped

Installation of an emergency services mobile tower on a popular visitor look-out in Wilsons Creek is on hold, after a local NSW MP raised concerns that the area had been misidentified as regrowth.

Fresh police appeal for witnesses in Gage Wilson case

Police have issued a fresh public appeal for witnesses in the case of missing Mullumbimby man Gage Wilson.

Rising Tide activists head to Justine Elliot’s office with kayaks

Today saw just over 40 people kayak from John Follent Park in Tweed Heads to Faux Park in South Tweed, before walking close to a one km with their kayaks to the Labor Member for Richmond's Office to demand an end to new fossil fuel projects.

270 ready to contest Seas The Day women’s surfing at Kingscliff

The world’s largest female participation surf event Seas The Day is returning for its second year at Kingscliff Beach...

Contradicted council

Local government elections are scheduled for 14 September 2024 and ‘Team Cadwallader’ of Ballina Shire Council have scored an...

Former Lismore Chamber of Commerce President Debra Benhayon. Photo Lismore Chamber

Whatever her religious affiliations, Deborah Benhayon was a first-rate president of the Lismore Chamber of Commerce, according to one member.

Five of nine board members stepped down at an extraordinary general meeting on Monday (October 29), including Universal Medicine (UM) members Deborah Benhayon (ex-wife of Serge Benhayon) and Ray Karam.

UM was described as a ‘socially harmful cult’ during a Supreme Court hearing earlier this month.

However a chamber member, who did not wish to be identified but has no affiliation with the group, told Echonetdaily ‘the board recognised Deborah did a very good job as president’.

‘The majority, I think, resigned because they didn’t like the pressure being put on Deborah to resign by non-members,’ he said.

‘Whatever you think of Universal Medicine as an organisation, I don’t think there is any evidence she ever tried to favour the group.

‘But at the end of the day, the noise from people who are not even chamber members baying for her blood just became too much.

‘There are 370 businesses in the chamber, up from 200 when Deborah took over.

‘Of those, only 20 were UM affiliates.

‘Did they have a disproportionate influence?

‘Not on those numbers but the fact of the matter is that they turned up for meetings,’ he said.

He added that he did not have a lot of time for some of the new committee.

‘Some of the new guard are actually the old guard, from back in the days when the chamber was a useless rabble,’ he said.

The new board

  • President – Rodney Jenkins (Director – Lismore Property Managers)
  • Vice President – Patrick Healey (General Manager, NORPA) – returning
  • Secretary – Sarah Smith (Dealer Principal/Director, Lismore Toyota) – returning
  • Treasurer – Stephen Oliver (Local Business Manager, Lismore G&C Mutual Bank)
  • Casey Withers (Owner, Makoda Boutique/ Small Biz Specialist ANZ).
  • Chris Knight (Owner, Thai Satay Hut)
  • David Martin (Managing Director, ezi-make)
  • Paul Deegan (Managing Director, Rosecot Pty Ltd) – returning


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. ‘But at the end of the day, the noise from people who are not even chamber members baying for her blood just became too much”

    Deborah Benhayon may have been an excellent, well-intentioned and successful president. However, her close association with Universal Medicine as CFO is not “noise” It is a real issue in the community, which is who that business community service.

    This is a group that attacked my business, Esther Rocketts business, journalist and many others. Presumably, she was silent on that, while she was in court supporting her ex-husband extraordinary claims.

    Additionally, UM won the business of the year three years in a row and Deborah oversaw an inaugural “Hall of Fame’ that they were inducted into. Let’s say that was all coincidental. That is not how the community saw it.

    Sit in any cafe in Lismore and listen to locals talk. Maybe it’s not correct, but that is the perception, and you can understand why.

    The comment “noise from people not in the chamber” is a facetious comment that ignores the very people that the business community is meant to be serving. And its a slap in the face to hundreds of people in Lismore and Byron Shires who have directly been disaffected by the activities of UM and its members.

  2. I have to concur with this gentleman. I joined the chamber just over a year ago after witnessing the work that was being done post floods by Deborah and the board. I got to know a few of the board members in person and they are good people. The fact that I myself am affiliated with Universal Medicine shouldn’t matter. Each and every person who is a member of the chamber has their own personal belief system and this should be respected no matter what. Deborah and the board made that chamber what it was, a great support for the Lismore Business community. It will be interesting to see what happens from this point, particularly with so much heated discrimination towards Universal Medicine affiliated businesses to whom many will attest bring much to the business community of Lismore and surrounds.

  3. No “evidence she ever tried to favour the group.” Rubbish!

    At the height of Ms Benhayon’s presidency, at the 2017 LCCI Business Excellence Awards. Her extended family’s business, Universal Medicine, was awarded 2nd in the ‘Excellence in Health Services’ category. And her husband’s business, Flawless Imaging, awarded 2nd in the ‘Excellence in Home Based or Online’ category. Both being awarded the titles of ‘Highly Commended’ by the Lismore Chamber. Nepotism much? https://lismorechamber.com.au/awards/2017-awards/

  4. I find it extraordinary that anyone other than members of Serge Benhayon’s group, that seems to me like a self-enrichment hippy cult, could believe that acting in an official capacity for Lismore Chamber of Commerce while also a member of said group would not bring the Chamber, and indeed Lismore itself, into disrepute.

  5. Yes, success is highly over-rated anyway. Who wants increased membership in any organisation? Just means more admin.

    Personally I would like to see anyone with any religious affiliation run out of town – be they christian, cult member, atheist, buddhist, or spiritual seeker, pagan, or just plain old farmer. Oh hold on, that is everyone, but I digress. I would also like to see anyone who has allowed themselves to be influenced by the socially harmful advertising companies into having a diet of fast food and sugar be run out of town – in case their taste becomes infectious. Oh, and anyone who is into that cult that still follows Kylie Minoque from the 1980s and still has the desire for shoulder pads and permed hair. No good ever came out of that one either. Ever should we be vigilant and on the look out for such threats to our way of life.

    Anyway, good opportunity for new blood to lead the way. If its not too late, Lance Martin would have my vote for president of the chamber. Ever eloquent with the pen, able to turn a nice phrase, albeit a little sharp and cutting at times. Tends to be a little pious occasionally about his views on atheism. But that should not get in the way – freedom of religion is important after all.

    He has good business acumen, having run multiple businesses over the years (or do they appear to be the same sort of business with different names …a little confusing, but non-the-less) and has experience with dealing with multiple consumer complaints, especially online – a critical skill for this particular job. Oh, and above all, he is a staunch defender of all threats to a harmonous society – whether they be real, perceived, imaginary, non-existential or otherwise. Calm demenour and open minded too from all reports…

    Perfect I would say for the role of president of the chamber of commerce. Yes, definitely time to move on. Lance Martin for president!!!!

    • If the issue was not so serious, Adam Warbuton’s sarcastic comments might be acceptable…. The other groups and faiths he refers to have not recently had damning findings made about them by the supreme court. The “socially harmful cult” Universal Medicine has, and is locally home-grown and locally active.

      UM followers continue to prove the “cultist” label by being in denial that the court jury recently found it true to say that the claims against him were substantially true in many respects, see Coffs Coast Advocate, 19 Oct 2018.

    • Not the proper forum for this discussion, however, Adam seems not to have noticed the adverse and damning verdict for the man he takes flowers to and calls the closest thing to god.

      Or the flood of outrage and media from organisations and individuals that to now were too afraid to speak, least of all they get their reputations trashed like me and others, or are on the pointy end of some legal shenanigans.

      Adam’s sarcasm is a transparent attempt to deny the outcome of a case Serge took which he said would prove his integrity, and for his ongoing involvement in a group now openly branded a harmful cult.

      Interestingly, UM has a multitude of front groups that do not openly advertise its UM affiliations, and Serge has a bunch of different companies and as many business names.

      The irony of Adam’s comments – a tired narrative that gives him and the group comfort in their need to vilify others rather than look at themselves and their chosen guru- consistently alludes him, and the rest of the group.

      Deborah is not with the LCCI because she was seen to have a conflict of interest. Politicians lose front bench positions over a lot less. It’s time UM members stepped back and started looking at their actions and how the wider community perceive them, rather than constantly trying to deflect criticism, and reality, by attacking others.

  6. Universal Medicine seems to be in denial about recent developments. Their website STILL trumpets Serge Benhayon’s listing from The Northern Star newspaper’s “Most Influential” people awards. Someone should tell him that he’s been expelled from the list!

  7. Witch hunt in Lismore? Look out anyone affiliated with Universal Medicine when the mob mentality drowns out any voice of reason, including the one in this article from someone who worked alongside Ms Benhanyon but was not affiliated with UM. Nothing like the word cult to stir up craziness. For anyone who has worked or spent time with Deborah Benhayon there is no validity to any of the claims against her, just a stack of reasons why she is someone who is an asset to know and have in your corner including when it comes to making a difference for peoples lives in the town they live in, not there to feather her own nest or beat her own drum. She is an absolute quiet achiever, just getting on with it, which I am sure is what she will continue to do.

  8. Lance Martin is an atheist and is against any belief or opinion about a higher power or Gaia or God or superconsciousness. We get fat and old and die. That’s it. Currently he is attacking Universal Medicine and has done so relentlessly for seven years.

    • No, on the contrary, I am not against any ones ‘beliefs’ if they are sincerely held and harm no one. On the other hand, I am stridently against demonstrably false beliefs that result in family and relationship breakdowns, social disharmony, the enrichment of a few at the expense of many, and sanctimonious, one-sided, myopic moralising.

  9. Clearly it’s not a good thing that serge Benhayon makes disgraceful comments about disabled people, and has been found to be in the wrong by the Supreme Court
    His esoteric teachings are ridiculous and his restricted diet prescription is dangerous and malnutrition according to Dr Ingall at LBH
    His followers subscribe to the nonsense he spreads through his “ college”
    It’s not healthy to have these agendas and ideas promoted or endorsed by Lismore Chamber of Commerce
    Not does it represent the community well
    Deborah Benhayon May have done a few good things or many good things
    It’s just unfortunate that she is a leader in that socially harmful cult

  10. You appear to have stopped publishing comments on this article. Why? If comments are allowed and open then as long as commentators adhere to the rules, they should be published.

    What I wanted to say was that I disagree strongly with much of the tone of this article. It is not “noise” when local people have genuine concerns about the influence of Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine on Lismore, the chamber of commerce, and any other local authority board or organisation. Subsequent to the recent NSW Supreme Court decision and Benhayon’s huge own goal in suing Rockett for deformation and instead finding himself and his group fully exposed, many, many people have questions, concerns and fears. Just look at some of the Facebook groups who were following the trial and the hundreds of comments from locals (and indeed people from across the globe).

    5 members of 9 quit the board – that’s over 50% and to pretend there was no favouritism towards UM is just ignorant. I notice the UM website STILL lists the Northern Star “Influential People Award” that was retracted from Benhayon. Perhaps it’s time they took that down. Or is that being taken back just “noise” as well?

  11. People with financial conflicts should recuse themselves from actions where they have a vested interest.

    She didn’t.

    This is not very difficult to understand and not remotely controversial.

  12. There were 2 ways to resolve this conflict of interest.
    The other being step down as cfo of universal medicine.
    What is more important here?
    Serving your community or serving another cause?

  13. “Conflict of interest” – was that ever raised before the media coverage of the Benhayon/Rocket defamation court case? Why not? Did the Lismore community as a whole ever have any issues with the Universal Medicine group, like when they came in from the whole Northern Rivers area to physically assist the businesses in town with the horrendous flood damages? When they raised money to help them? I find it sad when some people so easily get on the bandwagon of discrimination based on media reports, when we all know by now that the media twists and bends the truth as they see fit, if not telling lies straight out.
    As far as I know, none of the accusations, that the jury, not the judge, found to be true regarding Serge Benhayon, had any supporting evidence other than the opinions of a few, who don’t actually know Serge, his family or the UM affiliates very well if at all. How can anyone make a reasonable judgement about harmful behavior, when there is no victim, just hearsay of a few against a lot of other testimonials praising the integrity and honor of the alleged perpetrator?
    It’s hypocrisy when we on one hand criticise the media for being biased or lying and disrespectful of people’s lives, and then pick what (true or not) article suits or entertains us, claim that now the press is telling the truth and shout along with it.

  14. Members of the Catholic Church are found guilty of paedophile offences every year after centuries of covering them up.

    Why are they still so ‘respected’?

    Why has that massive ‘cult’ not been branded a ‘criminal group’ and shut down?

    • Big Rob. Generally speaking, predators in the Catholic church do not have a history of being granted business awards three years running, nor do they have advocates lobbying for their business inside a commerce representative body. And if they did, we would also expect the public to be outraged.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Curtains up on Byron High’s debut musical

After many months of hard work and rehearsing, Byron Bay High School students and staff  are about to perform their musical whodunnit on June...

Wallum developer welcomes arrests

The developer behind the beleaguered Wallum urban subdivision on rare and sensitive land in Brunswick Heads welcomed the recent arrests of protectors who have blockaded the site over the last four months.

Fresh police appeal for witnesses in Gage Wilson case

Police have issued a fresh public appeal for witnesses in the case of missing Mullumbimby man Gage Wilson.

Ballina MP mostly welcomes state budget announcements

Greens Member for Ballina Tamara Smith has welcomed some of Labor’s funding announcements in last week’s state budget, including a new Fire and Rescue station for Byron Bay and more firies.