Australia Rocks: Consolidating the Groundswell Workshops in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Australia Rocks: Consolidating the Groundswell Workshops in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Autumn 2011. Summary by Katherine Berry.

The desire to offer acupuncture to more people in the community is a driving force behind ACMAC and its member clinics in the UK, Ireland and Germany. And we’re delighted that our friends and colleagues in Australia are working hard to achieve this too. Workshops were recently held in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne to consolidate the groundswell of Community Acupuncture in Australia.

Hosted by Katherine Berry with Katherine Japunčić and Jason Chong, the workshops brought together people from all over the east Coast of Australia to share their experiences and passion for “making acupuncture more accessible to more people”.

Attracting a wide range of guest speakers presenting about innovative projects, ‘Community Acupuncture’ was defined as:

–    Multibed communal acupuncture clinics

–    Practitioners working within existing community and health settings

–    Volunteers working in outreach programs (in Australia and overseas)

–    Volunteers working in rapid-response programs (e.g. to natural disaster)

–    NADA acudetox ear acupuncture programs

–    Solo practitioners with concession rates and sliding scales to cater for low income groups

This article is a summary of some of the inspiring work going on there, and the future vision for community acupuncture in Australia.

Sydney 29th October 2011

Jessica Feltz, President of the Board of Directors at Community Acupuncture Network (USA) delivered a welcome address via video (see and took us on a virtual tour of her community acupuncture clinic: Turning Point. She spoke about community/multibed acupuncture clinics as an innovative business model, and how this novel approach is helping more practitioners to sustain a healthy business in the USA in the current economic climate. She recommended Lisa Rohleder’s book Acupuncture is Like Noodles for people wanting to set up multibed clinics.

Katherine Berry presented on behalf of Charlotte Whitestone and spoke about how ACMAC evolved to represent community and multibed clinics in the UK and internationally. This presentation included an overview of John Tindall’s work at London’s Gateway Clinic and the Dragon Acupuncture Project in Brighton, as well as showcasing many of the 61 (number correct at that time) ACMAC clinics. Key issues of privacy, funding, marketing and the benefits for both patients and practitioners were addressed.

Katherine Japunčić shared stories about Autonomous Healthcare: anecdotes from Europe and introduced us via video to the late Doc Rosen whose teachings and work inspired a radical movement of Street Medics, who later established the European Barefoot Doctors Project movement based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. These examples reinforced the importance of establishing a team of practitioners, to better meet the demands of working in community health settings, as well as fostering personal and professional growth and learning from shared experiences and structured de-briefings.

Christine Berle,  a practitioner with over 35 years experience in clinical practice and TCM policy, showcased several community projects she has been involved with, including a NADA Ear acupuncture program set up by the Foundation For the Wholistic Treatment of Substance Dependency (FWTSD) in collaboration with We Help Ourselves, a therapeutic community in Redfern. She spoke about the challenges and rewards of working with local and state Governments and the importance of securing funding to ensure sustainability of projects. Christine also spoke about how research can be a gateway into services, and gave the example of her Masters research, which investigated the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of Hepatitis C, made acupuncture available to people who may not have had access otherwise.

Angie Savva presented about her position at the Aids Council of NSW, where free acupuncture is offered to HIV patients for the treatment of immunity & energy boosting, medication side effects and improving mental/emotional health. Angie is also offering affordable acupuncture in her private clinic in Marrickville and spoke about some of the challenges getting a new clinic off the ground.

Naomi Abeshouse delivered an inspiring presentation about the Clinical Approaches to Treatment with Acupuncture for Refugees who have been Victims of Torture and Trauma, based on work she did with Kate Levett and other colleagues at the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS)

A recurrent theme at the Sydney workshops was establishing acupuncture programs within existing health services. While theoretically popular, the multibed acupuncture model is still in its infancy, with people like Damien Bodnarik working hard to get clinics up and running in Bondi and Rosebay for example. It was agreed that more work needed to be done to foster community acupuncture programs in Sydney based on successful, innovative models.

Brisbane 5th November 2011

Greg Bantick delivered a moving presentation about the establishment of the Acupuncture Recovery Clinic (ARC) and their rapid response to the Brisbane Floods in January this year. He, along with Sarah George and over 30 other volunteers set up a drop-in acupuncture service at the Brisbane Flood Evacuation Centre delivering over 700 treatments (over five days) to evacuees, displaced homeless people and exhausted community members who volunteered at the Centre. Following the emergency response, phase II was initiated which saw over 30 clinics in South East Queensland area offer a 50% discount (for up to six weeks) for people affected by the floods. ARC were then instrumental in offering supplies and advice for practitioners in the North Queensland area affected by Cyclone Yasi and the Christchurch Earthquake in NZ which followed shortly afterwards in February 2011. According to Greg, ARC’s Facebook page was unexpectedly a contributing factor to the success of the ARC as it helped to quickly mobilise people, support and donated supplies. This demonstrates how online communities can bring about effective change.

Alex Grant and his colleagues Nikki Takahashi and Amare Pearl, from Red Tent Yoga prepared a brief documentary about their multibed acupuncture clinic in the beautiful town of Byron Bay on the NSW north coast. Alex also talked about another clinic at Heartspace in Mullumbimby and how both clinics had grown organically over the past couple of years. He highlighted that working within a yoga studio and above a popular health food store were the ideal settings – for both ambience and attracting the right clientele.

Adam O’Mara shared his unique experience as a volunteer acupuncturist at the 139 Club, in New Farm. The 139 Club’s mission statement is: To provide a safe environment in inner city Brisbane for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, to access a range of support services. Adam’s program is another excellent example of how acupuncture can be delivered within an existing community setting, to a high needs population. A challenge he faces is sustainability due to lack of funding. This generated discussion about ways of attracting funding from local council, government grants and philanthropic sources.

Matthew Sincock gave an informal talk about his community acupuncture and shiatsu clinic that was recently established in Bellingen NSW with David Whitmore. Plans are underway to also open clinics in the near-by towns of Macksville and Coffs Harbour, as well as well as a Bellingen campus of the Australian College of Eastern Medicine.

Amber Fulton, who is a TCM student familiar with the new requirements for registration being introduced in 2012, raised some key concerns about how community acupuncture services will comply with stringent national practice standards. This lead to discussion about how to work together to ensure that policies and procedure documents are shared within the group, and ways of offering robust and practical peer support.

Melbourne 12th November 2011

Tom Connor and Natasja Sproat, Co-Founders of Traditional Healthcare presented a video and photo journal of their work in Datom, a remote village on the outskirts of Jharkhand in India. They visited this area in 2007 delivering acupuncture to people who had walked up to three days to receive treatment. This inspired construction, currently underway, of a multi-faceted clinic, where they plan to offer healthcare alongside sustainable agriculture, water sanitation programs and education services. They plan to set up a similar service in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Traditional Healthcare have an excellent website, with an extensive video library produced by documentary maker Takeshi Kondo.

Peter Loupelis and Anna McMullen introduced us to the Shen Ting Community Acupuncture Clinic, which was founded by the late David Benn in early 2010. David was an inspirational leader in the Australian TCM field and his legacy carries on through the work carried out at Shen Ting. Situated above Natural Pathways yoga and meditation centre in Mitcham, the Shen Ting clinic looks over the Dandenong Mountains and is a peaceful and tranquil setting for a six-bed open plan acupuncture clinic.

Helen Bourke’s presentation about Prickles Community Acupuncture was unique in that she included an analysis of data they record in their online database which captures key information such as patient demographic and reason for choosing acupuncture. This information is useful for future planning and may inform marketing strategies, for example 72% of their patients are female, with the majority (29%) being 31-40 years old. The treatment of pain accounted for 56% of the reason for patient visits. Prickles was founded by Joanne Sharkey in 2009, and Helen now works with Christine Lee to offer acupuncture in two locations, Boroondara Community Health Centre and Yarra Health Services -both governed by the Inner East Community Health Service (IECHS). In addition, they have registered as an incorporated association and Health Promotion Charity, which means they are eligible for tax concessions.

Stephanie Bowen and Kerry Marshall’s clinic The Acupuncture Studio has adopted the CAN/ American model using recliner chairs (in fact, BBQ loungers!) instead of tables. Their clinic is open plan with seven reclining chairs and three needle stations. It has a quiet waiting room to accommodate any overflow of patients. In depth intake forms are hosted on their website and downloaded by patients prior to treatment, to reduce the paperwork during the initial consultation. Like other programs, the Acupuncture Studio is set up within Studio Cirq which holds classes in yoga, Pilates, meditation and a range of related techniques.

In August 2011, Kerry Marshall also set up the Melbourne Acupuncture Multibed Project in a Women’s Health Clinic: Fertile Ground. She currently practices on her own, seeing 2-3 patients per hour over a five-hour period (10-17 pts in total). Each treatment is approximately 45 minutes long and all patients come for preconception IVF and pregnancy with the odd general complaint. To ensure privacy, there are screens between patients and everyone is offered headphones with guided mediations and music, as well as eye pillows. This may be something other clinics may adopt, with privacy being one of people’s major concerns.

Shona Rich concluded the session by sharing her experiences working with Alex Grant and team in Byron Bay (see Brisbane workshop). She reiterated how the program had grown organically and how the tranquil space was an important part of the program’s success.

There was a brief mention of an acupuncture program being set up in the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and we will keep you posted as to how this program evolves.

With Chinese Medicine transitioning to National Registration in July 2012, Elisa Yip raised the issue about how it is especially important to establish (if not formalise) how community acupuncture identifies itself within the context of Chinese Medicine in Australia. Recent concerns arising from the need to integrate new registration and regulations (for those practicing outside of Victoria), have lead to her considering how the same issues might affect community acupuncture. She has identified a potential point of weakness in the right to practice community acupuncture, due to it being different to private practice (which the current regulations are primarily concerned with).  Prompt attention needs to be given to this, prior to the introduction of new regulations.

In conclusion, the workshops attracted a really motivated group of students and practitioners who share a passion for acupuncture – and a desire to make it more available through innovative programs.

From these workshops our vision is to work closely with practitioners in Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world to help foster and support the establishment of local community acupuncture programs. To achieve this, ACMAC has partnered with the Acupuncture Network, whose strength is bringing like-minded practitioners and students together from around the world to network and share their experiences. Have a look at our Forum, and please contribute to these discussions. Together we can change how we offer our services to the community.

PDF presentations:

• My journey with the 139 Club, New Farm, Brisbane. (Download PDF)

• Prickle Community Acupuncture Clinic. (Download PDF)
• Melbourne Acupuncture Multi-bed Project for Fertility, IVF & Pregnancy. (Download PDF)
• Shen Ting Community Acupuncture. (Download PDF)

• A Tale of Two Clinics. (Download PDF)
• Community and Multi-bed Clinics. (Download PDF)
• Autonomous Healthcare : anecdotes from Europe. (Download PDF)
• What is going on elsewhere? (Download PDF)
• Clinical Approaches to Treatment with Acupuncture for Refugees who have been Victims of Torture and Trauma. (Download PDF)

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