Taxpayer funds for cult DVD on autism

Rick Morton

An instructor in a “socially harmful cult” sold taxpayer-funded DVDs to parents that said autistic children could see spirits and illnesses from past lives, with the permission of the federal Department of Social Services, which was warned more than four years ago that the material was dangerous.

The Australian has obtained copies of emails sent in August 2014 to the department about Tanya Curtis and her Gold Coast-based “behaviour specialist” organisati­on Fabic, which is an approved provider receiving taxpayer subsidies under the federal government’s Helping Children with Autism package.

Fabic is registered as a provid­er under the $22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme and The Australian revealed yesterday that Ms Curtis posted a video defending Universal Medicine leader Serge Benhayon a day after a Supreme Court of NSW jury found he had an “indecent interes­t in young girls as young as 10” and pushed quack therapies such as “esoteric breast massage”, despite knowing these could be harmful to people.

Ms Curtis previously told The Australian she was a professional who gets “results with behaviour change in cases where other attemp­ts have failed”.

The department had a complaint in June 2014 about a DVD created by Fabic, An Introduction to Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder, which it promoted as being endorsed by the federal government. Not only did the department dismiss the concerns but it reiterated that the video could be helpful to parents of HCWA clients, “and therefore the department considers the DVD to be in scope with the funding”.

“The content of the DVD … warns that children with this disorder are susceptible to the influence of ‘energies’,” DSS manager Kathy Baumgarten wrote in her summary of the complaint. “It provides an example of a child becoming distressed at a site where loss of life occurred in the past, and of a child apparently ‘seeing’ illness. You also gave a list of examples from the DVD suggesting the examples are more in line with the viewpoint of Serge Behayon (sic) and Universal Medicine, all of which are not evidence based.”

Universal Medicine leader Benhayon promotes a diet of foods with only good “vibra­tional” energies. The Sunday Telegraph reported in June that there had been several hospitalisations at Lismore Base Hospital due to severe diet issues, including a baby that had carbohydrates remove­d from its diet. The newspaper revealed that the parents of the child were members of the Universal Medicine cult.

The Department of Social Services decided there were no issues with the DVD’s dietary message because Fabic only “highlights certain foods may impact on their child’s behaviour”.

A spokeswoman for the departme­nt did not respond to detailed questions about the complai­nt. “The Early Intervention Service Provider Panel consists of providers who are eligible to deliver services under the Helping Children with Autism program,” she said. “The decision to use a specific provider rests with the HCWA participant.”