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. Mr Bailey had suffered poor health in his early life. By the age of 40 he had very serious respiratory and digestive problems, was badly affected by arthritis and had had eight major operations. Thanks to an American booklet, entitled The Fast Way to Health, he discovered how to restore health and 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 fulfil a long-standing ambition.
Having seen the plight of fatherless children at many overseas orphanages, Mr Bailey had an ambition to help disadvantaged children. In 1941, with World War II underway 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. He opened the first children’s home, ‘Belhaven’, at Bellevue Hill in Sydney. 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 were moved to ‘Hopewood House’ at Bowral which Mr Bailey had purchased for the purpose. It 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. They only ate natural wholefoods and nutritionists analysing the children’s meals expected to find nutrient deficiencies. To their surprise they found that all essential nutrients were supplied.
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. Dr Goldsworthy and his team conducted an extensive survey of the children’s teeth over a 10-year period. His findings were that the Hopewood Children had 16 times less decay than other Sydney children of the same age and the Institute consequently produced a brochure which told of the world dental record attained by the Hopewood children.
In 1956 Madge Cockburn visited natural health centres overseas. She returned to Australia convinced that Australia needed a natural health centre. Mr Bailey was a very influential man in the Sydney business community and they both knew that if he did not commence such a venture, nobody else could or would.
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 (later renamed Hopewood Health Retreat) as a clinic at Rawson Place, Sydney. YWAA purchased and modified a guest house on the banks of the Nepean River for the Wallacia centre.
On 27 September 1960, Mr Bailey and Mrs Cockburn founded the Natural Health Society of NSW. 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.
In November 1963 Mr Bailey and Mrs Cockburn formed a youth club for interested young people interested in Natural Health ideals and lifestyle called the ‘Hopewood Youth Development Association (HYDA).
When Mr Bailey died at 74 years of age, Madge Cockburn accepted the presidencies of the Youth Welfare Association, Hopewood Health Centre and the Natural Health Society and continued the health and youth work that she and Mr Bailey had established.
In 1982 the Society became incorporated as a limited liability company ‘Natural Health Society of Australia Limited’ to protect its members. In 1997 it re-registered as an incorporated association.
The Natural Health approach is different in many ways from that of orthodox medicine. Instead of attempting to treat the symptoms in the belief that symptom-free equates to health, Natural Health focuses on removing the underlying causes and encouraging self-healing, that is, it treats the whole person. And unlike drug therapy, the only side effects of correctly applied self-healing are better health all round.
Today the Society still follows the principles and practices which Mr Bailey introduced in motion way back in 1940: “To unite to defend our freedom to maintain our health by natural means and to disseminate knowledge. 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. Proper nutrition is the golden key of the doorway leading to good health.”