Facing a healthier future with naturopathic medicine
As evidence-based natural medicine plays an increasingly active role in the suite of solutions to Australia’s growing health care needs, Southern Cross University aims to be at the forefront.
The centrepiece is Australia’s first National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, based at the Lismore campus, with its three-pronged approach: innovation, research and education.
Due to open in late 2019, the Centre is bolstered by a $10 million personal donation by philanthropist Marcus Blackmore AM and his wife Caroline.
For Mr Blackmore, the significance of the gift lies in fulfilling the final wish of his father, the late Maurice Blackmore, that naturopathy be properly recognised and respected as a profession.
For Southern Cross, the opportunity to re-engage as a leader in naturopathic medicine – after being the first to offer a naturopathy degree 25 years ago – propels the vision for this Centre.
“We aim to establish an internationally-recognised centre of excellence in naturopathic medicine education and associated research,” says Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker.
Part of the Blackmore’s Walk
“We are proud to be the first Australian university to offer higher education qualifications in naturopathy. This will enable Southern Cross to provide distinctive career pathways and ongoing development for the profession, as well as increased research capability.”
Natural medicine and nutrition-led treatment are already used extensively to address a range of contemporary health issues, ranging from obesity through to the demands of an ageing population. Reason enough to act now, says Mr Marcus Blackmore when he made the gift to Southern Cross.
Marcus Blackmore has had a long association with the University: receiving an Honorary Doctorate in 2006 and serving on the Southern Cross University Foundation board. In 2011 he opened the Blackmore’s Walk, a five-year project that linked three key gardens at the Lismore campus – the medicinal plant garden, the Indigenous plant garden, and the students’ food garden.
Ahead of the opening of the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, Southern Cross researchers published the findings of a world-first scoping study showing the benefits of naturopathic medicine treatments for a wide range of chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disorders, musculoskeletal pain, type 2 diabetes, PCOS, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, hepatitis C, menopausal symptoms, bipolar disorder, asthma and in increasing cancer survival time.
The reinvigoration of both the focus in naturopathic medicine and the connection with the Blackmore family comes as the University celebrates its 25 anniversary. When Southern Cross opened in 1994, it led with innovative and in-demand courses and research including medicinal crops and naturopathy.
The University’s bold approach in those early years saw the establishment of the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics (1996), a new key area in Natural Plant Medicinal Products; the launch of the Naturopathy Clinic (1998) - the first of its kind to be established by an Australian university - as part of the progress of the Natural and Complementary Medicine programs; and the opening of the Herbal Medicine Garden (1999), a unique teaching resource and living laboratory for naturopathy students, which at the time contained several thousand plants and more than 240 plant species.
Foundation Vice Chancellor Professor Barry Conyngham said the opening of Southern Cross University heralded an exciting time for the Northern Rivers community, with trailblazing courses, like naturopathy, giving it the edge.
“We had the talent and location to research … plant genetics and medicinal crops. It was the first university in the country to … introduce the formal education of alternative-medicine practitioners.
“Southern Cross is not alone in these endeavours now. Many universities have followed our leadership in these fields.”
In partnering with the Blackmores to create the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, Professor Shoemaker has embraced Professor Conyngham’s legacy of a progressive and engaged university.
“We want to join together the passion of Marcus and Caroline Blackmore with the scientific rigour of and the responsibility of our University,” said Professor Shoemaker.