As June’s newsletter winged its way to subscribers inboxes I was driving up the Hume Highway to Sydney. It’s a long, ten hour trip so I had plenty of time for reflection.
I arrived in Melbourne in 1987 with only a backpack and a dream – and could never have predicted living in this city for over half my life.
My decision to leave New Zealand to study naturopathy was entirely on a whim. I had no idea if there was even a naturopathic college in Melbourne because life before the internet meant researching such things from across the sea was a very difficult thing. Hopping on a plane was literally an act of faith.
As the academic year had already begun before I arrived there was time to find a home, job and look into places to learn my new craft. At the time I naively thought the course would be more esoteric than academic and take a year or two part-time. While those options existed, early on in my research I found the Southern School of Natural Therapies (SSNT). The Diploma of Applied Science course was much longer and deeper than I imagined. Four years! Full time! Full fee paying! But the more I discovered about the course and the harder it sounded – the more I wanted to do it.
At a time when naturopathy was considered fringe medicine, SSNT was leading the way in marrying both the traditional healing arts and science. I was astounded to find that the curriculum included hundreds of hours of subjects like physics, chemistry and biochemistry, as well as anatomy and physiology. Naturopathic education was at a turning point. While still considered a vocation, it honoured tradition and had begun scientifically proving what our elders empirically knew.
After four years of hard work I graduated as a brand new naturopath and put off returning to New Zealand for another year because I needed some kind of informal apprenticeship to turn my newly acquired knowledge into sound practice. I found this by way of wonderful mentors and colleagues at the Victorian Herbalists Association. Our monthly meetings and frequent medicine-making sessions provided new practitioners with an invaluable environment to deepen our skills. They were heady days, as the profession came out of the fringe and entered the mainstream.
But there was a big cloud over my new career. Not long after starting practice, several of my beloved herbs, like borage and coltsfoot, were misguidedly taken out of use and added to the poisons schedule. There were also rumours that the new Therapeutic Goods Administration would take away all our medicines. How could a dedicated herbalist practice without them? It didn’t take long for me to realise that I’d learned about far more than prescribing herbs. In fact lifestyle changes were equally, if not more, powerful medicine.
While our worst fears were averted, I never forgot that moment of realisation. After 23 years of practice, herbs are still important. However I know from experience that what we do, rather than the remedies we take, creates the deepest changes. Some of the most profound health transformations I’ve witnessed have come from simple things, like going to bed earlier to get more sleep or altering how or what we eat. But most of all, learning how to listen to your body, mind and even spirit and respond with what it needs, provides a powerful framework for healing.
This next step in my naturopathic career is equally exciting. After graduating it seemed a wild dream that complementary healthcare would become so widely accepted. Nor could I imagine my work would include consulting with clients all over Australia and other parts of the world.
I’m humbled by what all my clients have taught me over these decades. It’s exciting to be able to condense my skills and work with a wider community, where no one needs to be left behind. As a health and happiness coach I’m still your naturopath, but with easier access and a refined focus.
I’ll be back with more articles and recipes in the regular newsletter format in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, please keep in touch. Send an email to say hello or book a consultation. As always, you can say hi on twitter or facebook.