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Natural Health Society of NSW Inaugural Meeting, 27th September 1960

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

The following are extracts from the minutes of the meeting at which the Natural Health Society of NSW was formed fifty years ago.

Mr Bailey welcomed all present and introduced those on the platform – namely: Mrs F M Cockburn, his business associate; Mr F G Roberts, naturopath; Myra Louise, ‘missionary of Natural Health’; Mr Fred C Hall, naturopath; Mr Peter Ash, chiropractor; Mr David Evans, naturopath; Mr H S Grimes representing the Australian National Naturopathic Association; Mr F K Gunter, naturopath; Mr Dudley K Otton, dietitian.



Those who elect to maintain health by natural means are conscious that our freedom to do so is constantly frustrated and filched from us. Unless we are alert to maintain and defend our freedoms, we may lose them completely. Publicity campaigns are designed to enslave the minds of the public, and pressures are brought to bear upon governments to bring down legislation which will take away the opportunities for people to choose the kind of health service which inspires their faith.

The principal objectives of our Society will be to unite to defend our freedom to maintain our health by natural means and to disseminate knowledge. If we diligently pursue these objectives, our meeting this evening will have a most important bearing upon the future of Australia, but if we fail to play our part, our Australian civilization may not extricate itself from the morass of sickness which threatens to engulf it.

Our Natural Health Society will … remind people that recovery is a natural process, and that the body, when sick, will return to normal health if abnormal living conditions are corrected.

It is apparent from the truly scientific point of view that health is normal; disease is abnormal. Proper nutrition is the golden key of the doorway leading to good health.

Will you take the opportunity to cooperate with us by conveying news of our movement to your relatives, friends and acquaintances, urging them to join our Society so that they also will receive the benefits to be derived?

Mr Bailey then asked Mr Gunter if he would propose the establishment of the Society.



I think this is a wonderful occasion, and ranks as one of the most important events in our lifetime – the beginning of this organisation. It is a splendid thing to meet people from overseas and other states with a common interest. A good deal of consideration has been given to the name which I propose – ‘The Natural Health Society of NSW’.



The following people were elected to serve on the first committee and to elect their own officers: Mr L O Bailey, Mr and Mrs J F Cockburn, Mr Homan, Mrs Maisey, Mr George Harvey, Mr D Paget, Mr C Morgan, Mr A Geissler, Mr I Evans, Mr Eric Storm, Mrs B Sonter, Mr Fred Field, Mrs S Blatt, Mr Dudley Otton and Mrs Joan Haddon.

The officers appointed at a later date were: President Mr L O Bailey; Vice-President Mrs F M Cockburn; Secretary Miss Ena Waters.



Fifty years is a long time for a not-for-profit organisation to be carrying out its objectives, and a lot has happened in that time. Besides carrying out our primary role of health promotion, we have had to conduct all the usual business that goes with the running of any organisation, large or small.

We have also held an endless number of committee meetings to make the major decisions and steer the Society along its path. Periodically, we have held special meetings to find new ideas for carrying out our objectives. For much of the time, especially in the first three decades, we have had to watch the Society’s finances anxiously, never quite sure how we were going to keep the organisation financially viable.

The magazine. Since the beginning in 1960, this has been and still is the primary medium for disseminating Natural Health. From roneoed foolscap stapled sheets in the 1960s, the magazine has evolved step by step into its present full-colour 80-page format.

The NHS bookshop. We have hand-picked a vast number of books over the years, and these have provided valuable information for members over and above what we can fit into the magazine. We have also constantly sought health products for the bookshop, the current range including juicers, Tri Nature household cleaning and skincare products, detox foot patches, pH test kits, natural sunscreen, air purifiers, rebounders, the In Lieu toilet squatting accessory, food dehydrators and, most recently, stainless steel water bottles.

Society branches. In the early years, there were just two branches – Wollongong and Canberra. As the years went by, more branches were formed by dedicated members, the number of locations totalling about 30 at various times. As television took over people’s evenings and natural therapies began to catch on in the wider community, attendance at branch meetings dwindled until all but Wollongong Branch eventually closed. Congratulations to the Wollongong committee for their perseverance and endurance!

Anniversary celebrations. We have previously celebrated three key milestones: The 25th was held at the Sydney YWCA in Wentworth Ave; The 30th was at a member’s historic home, ‘Combewood’ in Penrith; The 40th was held at the Bodhi Restaurant in Cook and Phillip Park in Sydney City, and was graced by special guest speaker, Brian Wilshire of Radio 2GB.

Conventions and seminars. The first ‘convention’ was held in 1974 at Vision Valley, Arcadia, just to the north-west of Sydney, the theme speaker being Dr Eva Hill, MD, of Christchurch, NZ (see Dr Hill’s story below). Conventions continued to be held every spring at Vision Valley until 1992. Due to their popularity, conventions were also commenced in autumn 1986 at Stanwell Tops Conference Centre, south of Sydney. These weekend events ran at both venues until people could no longer spare an entire weekend for an event of his kind.

Instead, the Society began presenting one-day ‘seminars’ in autumn each year, the first few being held at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School at North Ryde in Sydney. After trying a couple of venues, we settled on the North Ryde Golf Club, which is where they are still held, although not in 2010 because of the Anniversary workload. Annual seminars are planned to resume in 2011.

Expos. To expose the Society to many thousands of people, from 1990 we began having stands at Mind-Body-Spirit Expos at Darling Harbour in Sydney. At a couple of these, to attract attention to the stand we sold frozen banana ‘ice creams’ in cones. But all they did was attract people to buy the cones, not our magazines, books or subscriptions. We discontinued MBS stands in 2005 due to the cost of hiring the stand.

In July 2005, we began taking stands at Organic Expos, the most recent being in August this year. We have also participated in other recent expos, including a Women’s Health Expo at Rose Hill, three Natural Health and Natural Therapies Expos and the Gluten Free and Allergy Expos in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Stands have been held in recent years in the Penrith Festivals, just in front of the head office.

Radio and TV appearances. There have been hundreds of these over the years, the most extensive being Brian Wilshire of 2GB having Health Director, Roger French, as guest for one hour a month or on an irregular basis over a number of years.

Other radio stations that engaged us for regular appearances were 2SER-FM in Sydney, ABC Mid-North Coast, ABC Riverina, ABC 891 South Australia and 3AK in Melbourne. In each case, these appearances ended when the particular presenters moved on from the station.

At the NBN TV station in Newcastle, the presenter, Nat Jeffries, and producer, Julie Croaker, were such keen enthusiasts of Natural Health that they invited Roger onto their ‘Today Extra’ program for seven presentations a year from 1998 to 2006 when the show had run its course.

Magazines and newspapers. Many of our articles have been published in Wellbeing magazine and newspapers such as Penrith Star and Penrith Press.

Government submissions. Submissions that we have made to government bodies in recent years have been on topics that included fluoridation, vaccination, the federal government’s 2020 Summit, irradiated cat food (that was actually killing cats), genetically-modified crops and food labelling.

For the last couple of years, we have participated in the ‘Healthy Penrith’ campaign.

Correspondence and phone enquiries. In the office we have responded to an immense number of health inquiries by mail, phone and now email. Some questions have been too hard, but for the large majority we have been able to offer helpful suggestions. Some questions and their answers have gone into the ‘Your Questions Answered’ column in our magazine.

Legal Challenges. Fortunately, these have been rare, in fact there has been only one. In 2007 the owner of another health magazine tried to stop us using the new name for our magazine, Natural Health and Vegetarian Life. We won the case, but it cost us thousands of precious dollars.

Committee meetings and promotional meetings. The voluntary committee and paid staff have held regular committee meetings over the 50 years.

During the eighties and nineties, branch representatives assembled in ‘Branch Dynamics Days’ to coordinate branches and plan ways to expand the Society.

On occasions, there have been gatherings devoted to finding and planning ways to enhance the organisation’s effectiveness in promoting Natural Health.

And where do we stand today? Even though we are rewarded with a lot of appreciation from our members and other readers of our magazine, things are not going too well financially for the Society. As Mrs Cockburn said many times to Roger French, it’s difficult to make money out of Natural Health, and this is a statement that has proven all too true over the half century.

The fact that we are still financial in 2010 is due largely to the continuing generosity of the Australian Youth and Health Foundation and a number of members who have left bequests in response to benefitting from our guidance.