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Special Report

The official launch of the new Jacka Foundation Conference Centre at NICM Health Research Institute on 11 March 2020 was a very special occasion. Also held as an event to mark International Women’s Day, the day-long launch commenced with a networking breakfast with Olympic gold medallist Lisa Curry (now a wellness champion), followed by a symposium titled Influential Women in Natural Therapies: a Legacy for the Future.


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Lisa Curry and Judy Jacka L-R:  Petrea King, Judy Jacka, Kerryn Phelps,
Alan Bensoussan, Vicki Kotsirilos


The new conference centre was officially launched with a 'cutting the ribbon' ceremony by WSU Deputy Vice-Chancellor Prof Deborah Sweeney, JFNT Vice-Chair Dr Judy Jacka, JFNT Chair Ms Terri Albert, and NICM Director Prof Alan Bensoussan. Professor Sweeney made a short address opening the centre, followed by a response from the JFNT's Chair Terri Albert.

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JFNT Chair: Terri Albert


The symposium began with two esteemed elders in our profession, Judy Jacka and Petrea King. They were followed by others who have had a significant impact, including in the political, clinical, regulatory, philanthropic and advocacy spaces, and finally by some of the ‘young guns’ in natural therapies research. The symposium format allowed for an informal approach and the passion of the speakers as they recounted stories of their lives and work was inspiring. The Jacka Foundation thanks them for their uplifting contributions to the launch of the conference centre.

A full list of speakers, with links to their profiles, can be found here.

Historically, women have been the backbone of natural therapies in Australia, particularly in naturopathy. They may not all have been ‘influential’ but have, through their quiet and diligent work, made a positive impact on the lives of many. The Jacka Foundation salutes all those women and International Women’s Day 2020 was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate their lives and work.

The Jacka Foundation Conference Centre has various rooms that can be hired and we hope the natural therapies professions will think of this wonderful facility when looking for a place to hold events. It belongs to us all so let’s make the most of it and imbue it with generations of passion for complementary and integrative medicine.


NICM Health Research Institute at Western Sydney University

 Marcus Blackmore Building

The Jacka Foundation Conference Centre is located on the top floor of the Marcus Blackmore building (pictured above) which now houses the NICM Health Research Institute. With extensive views over the Westmead health precinct, this historic three storey building on the grounds of Western Sydney University’s Westmead campus at Parramatta was handed to NICM in 2016. It has been extensively refurbished by WSU with contributions from the Jacka Foundation and other donors. The ground floor includes a foyer and reception area, a clinic and dispensary which offer a range of natural therapies to the public, and research laboratories. Partnerships with local medical providers in the nearby Westmead health precinct are also in development and have potential for many research collaborations in complementary and integrative medicine.

The extensive Westmead health precinct includes hospitals, medical specialities, research and other health centres as well as the University. Numerous building projects are currently under way and when completed it will be the largest health and medical precinct in the southern hemisphere.


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The main room of the conference centre before renovation.


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After renovation, taken on the day of the launch.
This room is now titled the Judy Jacka symposium room. The conference centre consists of several rooms.


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Ground floor foyer of NICM Health Research Institute



The Dispensary


Abstract Book


Abstracts of each speaker’s presentation can be found here:



List of Speakers and their Profiles:

Lisa Curry AO MBE

Our networking breakfast speaker, Lisa talked about her journey from teenage swimming phenomenon to Olympic champion, health issues experienced subsequently including heart surgery, and later discovering a passion for women’s health that led to development of her HappyHealthyYou business: https://happyhealthyyou.com.au/?gclid=CjwKCAjw4KD0BRBUEiwA7MFNTQqFfHtx_8WyEFzVeYzKmY7xq9-WeXYi9LozLxX9k5pDyz5ZmL9kVRoCW0gQAvD_BwE

Professor Hannah Dahlen AM – Master of Ceremonies.
Professor and Discipline Leader of Midwifery, Associate Dean School of Nursing and Midwifery WSU, Higher Degree Research Director. Hannah’s research and advocacy for women and birth has seen her receive numerous awards including being named in Sydney as one of the “100 people who change our city for the better”. Hannah brought a joyful touch to the conduct of the day’s activities. https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/staff_profiles/WSU/professor_hannah_dahlen

Dr Judy Jacka – Major changes experienced during five decades in natural therapies.
Founding member and Vice-Chair of the Jacka Foundation of Natural Therapies, Hon Fellow WSU, principal of the Southern School of Natural Therapies (ret.), naturopath, philanthropist and author of nine books and numerous articles on health and healing. Judy described varied experiences with highlights including life in a busy clinical practice, attaining bachelor degree accreditation for naturopathy at SSNT, and attempts by governments to restrict natural therapy practices.

Petrea King, Peace in practice.
Naturopath, author, inspirational speaker, counsellor and founder of Quest for Life which runs residential programs for people experiencing cancer and other life traumas, Petrea spoke about the need for self-care in practice: https://www.questforlife.com.au/about/petrea-king

Associate Professor Vicki Kotsirilos AM – Advocating for change gently, respectfully and harmoniously.
Researcher, integrative medicine practitioner GP and founding president of the Australian Integrative Medicine Association, Vicki has spent over 25 years advocating for the acceptance of integrative medicine within the medical profession through her work on numerous medical and government boards and committees: https://nicm.edu.au/about_us/people/adjuncts/vicki_kotsirilos

Professor Kerryn Phelps AM – A brief history of integrative medicine politics in Australia.
Advisory board member of NICM Health, City of Sydney Councillor, GP, advocate for integrative medicine and civil rights, Kerryn spoke on the politics of integrative medicine, their impact on practice, research, funding and the patient experience, and the battle for good policy in Australia: https://nicm.edu.au/about_us/people/adjuncts/kerryn_phelps

Dr Penny Caldicott – Passion and Naivety, drivers for change.
President of the Australian Integrative Medicine Association, Founder of Invitation to Health, integrative medicine GP: https://www.aima.net.au/aima-board/

Unfortunately Penny was not able to be with us at the symposium but an outline of her proposed talk can be found in the Abstract Book: https://nicm.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/1651510/203009-NICMHRI-IWNT-ABSTRACT-BOOK-FINAL.pdf

Associate Professor Lesley Braun – Building bridges for a better future.
Director at Blackmores Institute, adjunct at NICM Health, pharmacist, naturopath, researcher, author. Lesley spoke about her years bridging the disciplines of pharmacy and naturopathy. Her path has been one of finding common ground in order to improve standards in both fields so the public gains from access to quality, evidence-based natural therapies: https://www.blackmoresinstitute.org/about-us/lesley-braun

Dr Anne-Louise Carlton – Flying under the radar: Confessions of a traditional medicine policy entrepreneur.
Four decades in Victoria’s Department of Health and Human services gave Anne-Louise the experience and opportunity to foster important policy development on the regulation of natural therapies: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anne-Louise_Carlton

Gail O’Brien AO – Walk in my shoes: How to reach truly patient-centred care.
In 2006 Gail’s husband Chris, a leading head and neck cancer surgeon, was diagnosed with brain cancer. The difficulties they experienced with a disjointed care system led to Gail becoming a cancer patient advocate and co-founder of the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in Sydney, a world-class not-for-profit integrated cancer treatment centre and hospital: https://www.mylifehouse.org.au/gail-obrien-oam/

Lucy Haslam – Dan’s story and why the story hasn’t ended.
Co-founder and director of United in Compassion and founder of the Australian Medicinal Cannabis Alliance. Lucy’s work came about after seeing the relief her son Dan gained from the use of cannabis during his terminal cancer experience, and how politics and money have come before compassion in the struggle for access to medical cannabis: https://unitedincompassion.com.au/lucy-haslam/

Associate Professor Judith Lacey – Reflecting on challenges in the integration of medicinal cannabis into comprehensive cancer care.
Judith’s numerous positions include Head of Supportive Care and Integrative Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Chair of the Integrative Medicine Group of the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia. Judith spoke about her experiences working for the inclusion of prescribed cannabis for select patients as part of oncology care: https://www.mylifehouse.org.au/team/judith-lacey/

Justin Sinclair – Chair of a Panel discussion: Advocating for change.
Research Fellow and AMREC Coordinator, NICM Health Research Institute WSU; PhD candidate. Justin has spent the last 15 years researching medicinal cannabis. The panel included Judith Lacey, Lucy Haslem, Vicki Kotsirilos and Petrea King and the discussion and audience questions provided interesting insights into the state of medicinal cannabis in Australia: https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/nicm/about_us/people/researchers/justin_sinclair

Professor Carolyn Smith – Supporting the next generation of women in research. Dean of Graduate Studies (Policy and Innovation, Graduate Research School, WSU. Committed to gender equality in STEMM, Judith spoke about the importance of nurturing the next generation of women in research: https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/staff_profiles/WSU/professor_caroline_smith

Nicole Bijlsma – How digital devices can be used to identify environmental health hazards.
CEO Australian College of Environmental Studies, Building Biologist, naturopath, author and PhD candidate. Nicole described her journey through significant health issues to discovering the cause as electro-magnetic frequencies in her environment. Now recognised worldwide as an expert in the field, her research continues to inform about health hazards in the environment: https://www.buildingbiology.com.au/

Dr Joanna Harnett – Reflecting on what is appropriate evidence in integrative medicine?
Lecturer in Complementary Medicines University of Sydney; Visiting Research Fellow at Australian Research Centre for Complementary and Integrative Medicine (ARCCIM) at UTS. The use of best evidence acknowledges both the science of uncertainty and the art of probability in minimising the risk of harm to the individual patient: https://www.sydney.edu.au/medicine-health/about/our-people/academic-staff/joanna-harnett.html

Dr Carolyn Ee – What integrative medicine needs moving forward.
Jacka Foundation Senior Research Fellow, NICM Health Research Institute, GP and traditional Chinese medicine practitioner. Integrative medicine needs to define what it does and how doctors are trained in integrative medicine, and also harness the power of consumers who want integrative medicine services: https://nicm.edu.au/about_us/people/researchers/carolyn_ee

Dr Suzanne Grant – Supporting patient choices in cancer.
Senior Research Fellow in Integrative Onclogy, NICM Health Research Istitute, WSU; Chinese medicine practitioner. Suzanne spoke about the need to support cancer patient choices re use of complementary therapies with big data, basic science, and clinical research: https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/staff_profiles/uws_profiles/doctor_suzanne_grant

Dr Amie Steel – Implementing complementary and integrative medicine evidence into practice.
Postdoctoral Senior Research Fellow, ARCCIM, UTS; naturopath. Drawing on the new field of implementation science, Amie addressed the challenge to complementary and integrative medicine researchers to see their research findings manifest in clinical practice: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Amie_Steel

Dr Christabelle Yeoh – Unifying the threads of integrative and functional medicine.
Medical Director of Next Practice GenBiome, Integrative Doctor at Invitation to Health. Reductionist science has taught us a great deal about the body and disease but functional and integrative medicine is becoming the new springboard for determining lifespan and resilience, and supporting health and healing: https://nextpracticehealth.com/hcps/dr-christabelle-yeoh

Leah Hechtman – Naturopathic medicine: survival of future generations.
Director of the Natural Health and Fertility Centre, naturopath, PhD candidate, and author of the major textbook Clinical Naturopathic Medicine . Leah emphasised the power of the feminine in health, conception and healing, and the need for integrative medicine to nurture its healers with consciousness and intention: https://www.naturalhealthfertility.com/