The Australian community of Warburton, in the state of Victoria east of Melbourne, has won its struggle to keep a Scientology drug rehab facility from moving into town, and now Scientology’s Narconon network finds its only Australian facility on the brink of oblivion.
Here in the U.S., Narconon centers around the country have been the subject of investigations and lawsuits after several patient deaths in recent years. What was once one of Scientology’s most reliable money makers, endorsed by its celebrity members like Kirstie Alley, Tom Cruise, and John Travolta, has turned into one of the organization’s biggest headaches.
In Australia, a “Narconon Melbourne” facility has operated for 12 years in a remote location some 15 kilometers east of the town of Warburton in a structure known as O’Shannassy Lodge (see photo, above). But the Scientology umbrella group that oversees the Narconon system, known as the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), bought a parcel of land closer in to town, and applied for a zoning permit to move the rehab facility.
And ABLE was committed to the move. It told local zoning officials that the old site was “not viable because of the need for prohibitively expensive upgrading works and because its lease arrangement is coming to an end.”
So this was a Hail Mary, with Scientology purchasing land for the new center on the assumption that it would get the proper permissions.
But locals fought back, forming a group called Say No to Narconon in Warburton, and it had initial success blocking the facility’s move. But then ABLE appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in Melbourne.
Today, February 5, VCAT came down with its decision, and it upheld the previous decision: Narconon is not getting its permit.
One of the reasons why is that the Say No group had, through a Freedom of Information request, documented how many police calls the existing Narconon facility generated. Readers of this site know that lawsuits against Narconon facilities in this country paint a stark portrait of poorly-managed facilities where drug and alcohol use is rampant, and former patients have made allegations that staff (most of whom are simply former patients) supply drugs to patients and sometimes in exchange for sex.
In the case of Warburton, “the objectors, relying largely on material obtained under Freedom of Information (the FOI incidents), presented a stark picture of the existing facility at O’Shannassy Lodge. Acts of violence, clients absconding from the facility, drug taking, theft and property damage were amongst the recorded incidents. One of these incidents involved a break-in and theft of prescription medication from the pharmacy run by Ms Kakafikas, an objector.”
But the tribunal felt that the number of incidents was actually somewhat low for the time period it covered (six years), and the tribunal also didn’t appear eager to look into the Scientology methods in the Narconon model. The tribunal said it was “necessary to maintain an open mind about treatment options at both the individual level and societal level. Similarly, the identity of the operator and their particular religious beliefs or affiliation does not militate against the grant of a permit.”
Instead, it ultimately found that the current location’s virtue is that it was so remote, and bringing such a facility into town in proximity to children raised serious safety concerns.
Well, whatever. We think the specific allegations about Narconon’s deceptive business practices — and the fact that it doesn’t actually deliver drug counseling but instead puts patients through Scientology training — should be pretty big factors why a community might not want a Narconon nearby.
But it’s the final decision that matters, and now Narconon is in a tough spot. Its lease is running out at its current location, and it isn’t welcome in Warburton itself.
If there’s one thing we know about Scientology, however, it’s that it rarely just gives up. We’ll be interested to see what it has in mind for Plan B. The very existence of Narconon in Australia is at stake.
Here’s the tribunal’s decision…
UPDATE: Meanwhile, in Canada…
L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday at Flag!
Hey, March 13 is just around the corner, and now we have some details about how L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday is going to be celebrated this year in Clearwater, Florida. Thanks to our tipster who forwarded this email…
The live LRH Birthday Event and the OT Convention are coming up at Flag and are guaranteed to be the best ever!
This year, the Convention will be starting on Friday the 13th of March at 1pm and will be going through to Sunday the 15th . The live LRH Birthday Event will be on the evening of Saturday the 14th.
There is an awesome agenda lined up!
Anna Nikula, OT Committee Officer Int, will be holding a seminar on Key Aspects of Leadership and how to expand your group.
Brandy Harrison, Building Expansion Dir Int, will be giving you the latest news on the Ideal Org front, and give you tools to use no matter whether you are fundraising for your own Ideal Org, or as part of an Alliance.
Then we have special guest Speakers: Sonya Jacques, Top Bridge Consultant FSO who will give a seminar on How to crack any barriers or stops to get anyone moving up the Bridge.
And Russell Mellor, Top Recovery Consultant, a 20-year SO veteran and who has recovered literally over 1,000 people back on the Bridge over the phone! He will be able to give you tips and tools to help you recover ANYONE back on the Bridge.
PLUS there will be plenty of time to network and meet with execs and other OT Committee Chairmen and members from around the world!
There is a special Accommodations package for anyone coming from out of town, which is 3 nights and food for 3 days at $450.00.
Please confirm your attendance to the OT Convention and the Live LRH Birthday Event by responding to this email.
You will not want to miss this!
Bonus photos from our tipsters
Pat Parodi is going to infinity…and beyond!
As long as we’re celebrating things Down Under today, we wanted to share with you this photo of Perth commenter what’suppresive, who showed his Underground Bunker solidarity during our recent Mornings appearance with this salute to your barmy proprietor. We are humbled. And can’t wait to drink beer in Perth.
The Mace-Kingsley center in Florida says, “Are you ready for the Purif? Come and join us!” Bring your child down to stock up at the vitamin dispensers with this young man!
Foundation for a Drug-Free World makes its pitch to a substance abuse council in the Dominican Republic!
And make sure you get those booklets in the photo! At the Catholic Technological University in Barahona, Dominican Republic…
We get emails….
Face painting with Scientology Volunteer Ministers in Valencia, Venezuela! Get those thetans while they’re young!
Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!
Posted by Tony Ortega on February 5, 2015 at 02:30
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts