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Natural Health Society's 50th Birthday!

[From New Vegetarian and Natural Health, Spring 2010 issue]

We reach 50 on 27th September 2010 We’ve done it!

We have reached a whopping half-century milestone – pretty good for a not-for-profit organisation pushing healthy lifestyle and the self-discipline that goes with it.

We are the longest-established lifestyle teaching organisation in Australia, as well as having no political or religious affiliations and not beholden to any vested interests. The Society was founded in 1960, but well prior to that year, the story of Natural Health in Australia was already well under way. Most of the following account, compiled by Roger French, is based on the writings of the late Madge Cockburn, Co-founder of the Society, President and later Patron for many years.



Natural Health was developed in Australia by Mr Leslie Owen Bailey, one of Australia's great philanthropists. He was assisted by Mrs Madge Cockburn, BEM, who worked with him for 40 years until his death in 1964.

In his early life L O Bailey had a weak constitution and suffered poor health. By the age of 40 he had very serious respiratory and digestive problems, was badly affected by arthritis in his right shoulder and could not stand for extended periods without feeling faint. By this stage, he had had eight major operations.

Thanks to the practitioners and authors, Dr Frank McCoy, Dr William Howard Hay, Dr Allan Carroll, Dr Alexis Carrel and Dr Robert McCarrison, Mr Bailey discovered how to restore his health and successfully overcame all his health problems. As a result, he was able to build up his business, the Chic Salon chain of women's lingerie stores. The increasing income enabled him to consider fulfilling a long-standing ambition.

Having seen the plight of fatherless children at many overseas orphanages, Mr Bailey had had an ambition to help disadvantaged children. Soon after World War II began, he was presented with the opportunity and decided to use his newly discovered ‘Natural Health’ methods for the benefit of any children that he was able to help.

In 1941, with World War II well under way and a growing problem of ‘fatherless’ children, he formed the Youth Welfare Association of Australia – later renamed the Australian Youth and Health Foundation – to be the registered charity, the umbrella for his youth and health philanthropic activities.

A short time later, he opened the first children's home, ‘Belhaven’, at Bellevue Hill in Sydney after fierce opposition from residents, who relented when Mr Bailey knocked on doors and explained what he was doing. Altogether, Belhaven took in 260 pregnant women, who were cared for by employed nurses through their pregnancy, childbirth and lactation.

To fund this work, Mr Bailey extended the manufacturing and retail outlets of Chic Salon to eventually reach 92 shops, six manufacturing plants, warehouses and a knitting mill.



The Natural Health story really began when Mr Bailey accepted the guardianship of 85 of these infants who were to become well known as the ‘Hopewood Children’. The infants soon outgrew Belhaven and the ‘family’ moved to ‘Hopewood House’ at Bowral, which Mr Bailey had purchased for the purpose. Hopewood House was a large mansion surrounded by a dairy farm and garden, which were to be worked by the children and would provide them with exercise in the fresh air and sunshine.

Mr Bailey and Mrs Cockburn were known as ‘Daddy Bailey’ and ‘Aunty Madge’ to the children and were the nearest that most of the children had to parents. Every weekend for 11 years, except when they were overseas on business, they went to Bowral to act as parents to the children. Considering they had been busy running Chic Salon from Monday to Friday, spending every weekend looking after 85 children would have to be the very definition of dedication.



The early days saw pressure from all sides. The Child Welfare Department, especially, put great pressure on Mr Bailey to have the children vaccinated. He resisted this pressure and the children had no vaccinations whatsoever. Significantly, there was not one case of a disease developing for which Child Welfare had asked that the children be vaccinated against.



Nutritionists analysed the children's meals expecting to find nutrient deficiencies. To their surprise, they found that all essential nutrients were supplied in the meals which, incidentally, were entirely lacto-vegetarian.

Originally Mr Bailey had not intended that the children's meals be vegetarian and had killed sheep and poultry on the property. He soon realised that they did not need meat and they would be better off without it, so a vegetarian regime, including some dairy products, was adopted. The Child Welfare Department officials insisted that the children be given meat, but when it was served to them, not one child touched it. Fortunately, after the nutrient tests, the Department reversed its decision and that was the end of that problem.



In 1947 Dr N.E. Goldsworthy, a medical doctor and head of the Institute of Dental Research in Sydney, was keen to investigate the dental health of children whose diet consisted entirely of unrefined foods. The large group of Hopewood children provided just the opportunity he had been looking for, and Dr Goldsworthy and his team conducted an extensive survey of the children's teeth over a 10-year period.

The results were, in Dr Goldsworthy's own words, "little short of miraculous". The Hopewood children had 16 times less decay than other Sydney children of the same age, who averaged 9½ decayed, missing or filled teeth per child, compared with only 0.58 in the Hopewood group, whose diet consisted entirely of unrefined foods.

As a result, the Institute of Dental Research, under the guidance of Dr Goldsworthy, produced a brochure entitled, ‘Every Doctor a Dietitian’, which told of the world dental record attained by the Hopewood children. It was sent to doctors and dentists in New South Wales. The Hopewood children were credited with having a higher standard of dental health than any other group ever studied, including New Guinea native children, hitherto supposed to have the best teeth in the world, but who had three to six times as much decay as the Hopewood children.



The medical profession also took an interest in the children. Sir Lorimer Dodds and Dr F W Clements of the NSW Health Department monitored the children for nine years. They examined tonsils and adenoids and said they had never seen a group so free of trouble as the Hopewood children. In spite of this, they still could not accept that it was the result of the children’s diet and natural way of living.

Even though the children had exceptionally good health, they did get some of the usual complaints. When 34 of them developed chickenpox, the staff were given leave, L O Bailey and Madge Cockburn went ‘on duty’ for four days, and the sick children were kept in bed and fasted or given only fresh fruit juices. They recovered quickly without any after-effects.

The fact that their health was not faultless was not altogether surprising. At school they sometimes swapped their healthy lunches for unhealthy conventional foods, and Daddy Bailey and Auntie Madge did allow them birthday cakes, etc, believing that they must be permitted some dietary treats.



In 1956 Madge Cockburn, now Assistant Managing Director of Chic Salon, visited natural health centres overseas. One of the most interesting was the Bircher-Benner Clinic in Zurich, Switzerland, where no smoking was permitted, no tea or coffee provided, and only fresh, natural vegetarian foods were served. This was a shining example of natural living for adults in those days, and Mrs Cockburn returned to Australia convinced that Australia needed a similar natural health centre. They both knew that if Mr Bailey did not commence such a venture, nobody else could or would.

Mr Bailey was a very influential man in the Sydney business community. He was head of the clothing section of the Chamber of Manufacturers and President of the Knitting Mills Association. During his lifetime, he gave away over a million dollars, which was a lot of money in those days. He was truly one of Australia’s greatest philanthropists.



Finally, the great event of establishing ‘Natural Health’ in Australia took place in 1960. In the middle of that year, the Youth Welfare Association founded the Hopewood Health Centre as a clinic at Rawson Place, Sydney, followed in November, by the live-in centre at Wallacia at the foot of the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. To provide the premises for the Wallacia centre, YWAA purchased and modified a very large guest house, ‘St Clair’, situated on the banks of the Nepean River.

On 27th September 1960, Mr Bailey and Mrs Cockburn founded the Natural Health Society of NSW to provide health education to the wider community. The first regular monthly meeting was held at 149 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, on 29th November 1960.

The Natural Health Society and Hopewood Health Centre (since renamed Hopewood Health Retreat) were set up with complementary roles. The Society's purpose was health education, and that of Hopewood was to provide a live-in centre where people could rebuild their health by natural means without drugs or remedies and under qualified supervision.

The methods installed at Hopewood were based on the documented experiences of the Hopewood children. Their dental and medical reports are an important record of those experiences, and are perfectly valid today.

By the early 1980s, Hopewood had become well known and a block of 10 new ‘Balcony Suites’ was added to the Wallacia centre. A few years later another block of 12 suites, known as the ‘Small Balcony Suites’, was built.



After the founding of Hopewood and the Society, Mr Bailey became conscious of the need to withdraw from his business activities so as to be able to devote himself full-time to furthering Natural Health, so in 1962 he sold the Chic Salon business. He was currently Chairman and Mrs Cockburn was Managing Director of all affiliated companies. He retired one year later, and Madge Cockburn stayed on with Chic Salon until retiring in March 1964.

Chic Salon was purchased by Woolworths, which was headed by Theo Kelly. However, this was not really Woolworth’s line of business, and in 1964 Theo Kelly sold the chain to Sussan of Melbourne. Years later, the managing director of Sussan told Mrs Cockburn, “I will never be able to thank you enough for the chain of shops.”

Soon after the establishment of the Society and Hopewood, Mr Bailey and Mrs Cockburn organised a rally on ‘The Drug Menace’. It was held in the Sydney Town Hall on Friday 28th September 1962 and attracted an audience of 2,000. This greatly enhanced the public awareness of the embryonic organisations.

In November 1963 they formed a youth club for the Hopewood children and other interested young people. Mr Bailey wanted to interest the young people in the wider community in the Natural Health ideals and lifestyle. The club was named ‘Hopewood Youth Development Association’, and referred to as ‘HYDA’. It was very strong and active for 18 years, but finally, as interest waned, the HYDA committee decided to wind up the club and transfer its resources to the Sydney Branch of the Natural Health Society.



On 16th September 1964 Mr Bailey died. He was almost 74 years of age, a remarkable achievement considering his doctor had said he would be unlikely to live beyond 50. His death was caused by severe adhesions that resulted from the operations earlier in his life.

Staff at the fledgling Hopewood asked Mrs Cockburn if the Centre would have to close, to which she replied, “Not only will it not close, it will become bigger than ever.” And, under her leadership, that is what it did.

Madge Cockburn assumed full responsibility for the health and youth work that Mr Bailey had established, and accepted the presidencies of Youth Welfare Association, Hopewood Health Centre and the Natural Health Society. After 13 years as President of the NHS, she stood down from that position, but continued in the other two positions until November 1982 when Mr Michael Hershon was appointed Managing Director and she became Chairman of these organisations.

As the new head of the two Natural Health organisations, Mrs Cockburn declared that the Australian Youth and Health Foundation had always supported and would continue to support the Natural Health Society and Hopewood Health Centre.

In response to increased interest in branches, the Society was formed into a federation on 22nd October 1979, and then on 7th April 1982, for the purpose of protecting its members, the Society became incorporated as a limited liability company with the name ‘Natural Health Society of Australia Limited’. Much later – in June 1997 – because the paperwork was very time consuming, it re-registered as an incorporated association, which simplified reporting enormously while still fully protecting the committee and members.

In February 1983 the Foundation commenced making regular monthly grants to the Society for the purpose of employing Roger French – who was Manager of Hopewood at the time – as its first Executive Director. Apart from a brief interruption between 1996 and 1999 for personal reasons, Roger is still in this position, now entitled ‘Health Director’.

At the end of 1984, membership of the Society had reached 2100 and there were branches in Wollongong and Canberra. By 1990, with ever-increasing interest in Natural Health, there were 19 branches and member¬ship was 4,200.

In 2002 the NHS released its own book, written by Roger French, which spells out the A to Z of what the Society has learned since its inception. Entitled, The Man Who Lived in Three Centuries, the book uses the remarkable recovery from a near-fatal heart attack of foundation member, Eric Storm, to elaborate the principles and practices of Natural Health. It shows that, as in the case of primitive peoples, no illness is caused by age alone, nor does illness occur without a cause. Further, if given the right conditions, the body has an astonishing capacity to heal itself from almost any disease.

In mid-2010 the fully revised and updated 50th Anniversary Second Edition was released with the slightly modified and more explicit title, How a Man Lived in Three Centuries – The complete guide to Natural Health.

The Society's progress over its 50 years has been possible thanks to the much appreciated ongoing support of the Australian Youth and Health Foundation and also to a great amount of dedicated effort by a solid core of people, many of whom have benefited personally through adopting the Natural Health lifestyle.

Thus the ideals, which the founder of Natural Health, L O Bailey, set in motion away back in 1940, are now firmly established and helping a lot of people improve their quality of life as he would have wished.