UM affiliates step down as minister calls for review
LISMORE MP Thomas George has backed a move to halt all associations between NSW Health and Universal Medicine.
Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Wayne Jones said the directive from NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard resulted in UM affiliates who were involved with the Positive Adolescent Sexual Health (PASH) conference, to be held at Lismore's City Hall today, being asked to step down.
A Supreme Court jury, in the unsuccessful defamation trial brought by UM founder Serge Benhayon against Esther Rockett, found Mr Benhayon was "the leader of a socially harmful cult”.
A NSW Health spokesman said the department had instructed all local health districts to "conduct an immediate assessment to determine if (they have) any engagement with Universal Medicine or individuals known to be associated with it and to discontinue any further association”.
He said a review of the PASH group should be complete this year.
NNSWLHD is a partner in the PASH consortium, which includes more than 40 other groups.
Mr Jones said the content of the event - which covers 16 topics, including sexual health - was not in dispute and was "evidence-based”.
A spokeswoman for Mr Hazzard said the directive was issued "in response to concerns raised in regards to Universal Medicine, which were aired during a recent court case”.
Thomas George welcomed "steps taken by” Mr Hazzard to distance NSW Health from Universal Medicine.
"Following allegations regarding the practices of UM, any information which has linked government agencies to that organisation has immediately been passed to the respective ministers for investigation,” Mr George said.
PASH co-chairman Franklin John-Leader said the event was "evidence-based” and "vetted by professionals”.
"(PASH) has been hugely appreciated by teachers, parents and young people,” he said.
"Those people directly implicated are not involved.”
Former PASH co-ordinator Sarah Broome (nee Davis), who was asked to step down, said she was "deeply shocked” by the request and there was "no evidence” her conduct was "anything but professional and appropriate”.
"I am a very open supporter of the organisation Universal Medicine and this in no way, shape, or form compromises the professionalism and integrity of my role for the last three years in the amazing program that is PASH,” she said.
"I will fully cooperate with Health's upcoming 'investigation' so that facts can be shared and I do not continue to be discriminated against based on my religious choices.”
There has been no allegation anyone involved with PASH engaged in an unprofessional manner.
A spokeswoman for non-profit group Social Futures said they would now continue to support the event.
"We are satisfied that recent changes to this year's events have been implemented which ensure the events are aligned with Social Futures' values,” she said.
In a post on Twitter, Esther Rockett urged people not to boycott the conference.
Labor candidates for Lismore and Ballina, Janelle Saffin and Asren Pugh, have welcomed the directive.
But Ms Saffin said the matter "could have been sorted earlier at a local level”.
Mr Pugh said all levels of government should be involved in a thorough inquiry into the organisation.
Serge Benhayon and other UM affiliates were approached for comment.