NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian meets with Lismore mayor Isaac Smith and National's candidate for Lismore, Austin Curtin.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian meets with Lismore mayor Isaac Smith and National's candidate for Lismore, Austin Curtin. Marc Stapelberg

Why the Premier is still silent on Universal Medicine

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been tight-lipped on concerns about the ongoing operation of a "socially harmful cult" on the Northern Rivers.

Ms Berejiklian recently visited the region and spoke of community safety as she repeated a prior announcement of $8.2 million for Lismore flood mitigation.

But she has not addressed concerns about a Goonellabah-based complementary health group found to have made misleading healing claims and to prey on cancer patients.

Universal Medicine founder, Serge Benhayon, was last year found by a Supreme Court jury to be "the leader of a socially harmful cult", a "charlatan", and to have "an indecent interest in young girls".

This finding was part of Mr Benhayon's failed defamation case against former client and blogger, Esther Rockett.

A spokesman for the Premier said she backed action taken by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

Mr Hazzard last year made a direction that NSW Health ban all associations between local health districts and Universal Medicine.

"The Premier supported the interventions of the ministers for Health and Family and Community Services on this matter and expected the same of other departments," the spokesman said.

He did not address questions on what else was being done to protect NSW residents from the group, which the jury found "preys on cancer patients" and "engages in dishonest healing practises" based on Mr Benhayon's "bogus healing claims", saying it was "not appropriate for the Premier to comment on decisions of the courts".

A 2014 report from the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission acknowledged the commissioner had received complaints about Universal Medicine treatments.

One doctor, thoracic physician Samuel Kim, was found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct in 2017 after he referred a Ballina woman to a UM practitioner.

The HCCC is further investigating a number of complaints about UM practitioners.

Mr Benhayon has not responded to numerous requests for comment regarding the jury's verdict and any action taken against UM affiliated since it was handed down.

The Department of Family and Community Services has declined to comment further after it was revealed last November children under their care had been referred to Universal Medicine treatments and events.

There were also allegations a Lismore-based FACS employee had ties to Universal Medicine.

At the time, FACS confirmed it had referred the allegations to the Office of the Children's Guardian.

That department had not provided further details on any investigation into the allegations.

A spokesperson told The Northern Star Universal Medicine had never been involved in out-of-home care and adoption services in NSW.

But the concerns raised about children under FACS care related only to one employee's alleged affiliation with UM and the alleged referral of children to UM practitioners and events.

Neither department has confirmed whether any investigation into the complaints has concluded, whether any findings were made or whether any children under FACS care could still be referred to UM-related treatments.