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Residential facility brings hope

The Wandi Nerida Centre, Mooloolaba. image: Warren Lynam


Residential facility brings hope

The Wandi Nerida centre at Mooloolah is the only one of its kind in Australia and is doing groundbreaking work in the treatment of eating disorders. WORDS: Shirley Sinclair.

A 10-hectare semi-rural sanctuary on the Sunshine Coast is offering hope and changing the lives of some of the estimated one million Australians who have eating disorders.

Mooloolah’s Wandi Nerida centre – Australia’s first and only residential eating disorder facility – has helped 63 residential participants since opening on June 8 last year.

The important work of the dedicated staff was recognised in the latest federal budget, with a further $1.3 million package for patient treatment.

Wandi Nerida executive director Jodie Ashworth says an average 60-day stay at the 13-bed facility, owned and operated by the Butterfly Foundation, costs about $75,000 for each participant.

The government funding, along with the generous support of philanthropic donors, will allow the facility and staff to continue to help all those needing care, regardless of their economic status.

The unique programs and support offered at the Old Gympie Road property – from equine therapy to art and permaculture – are helping current participants including bubbly Tyler-May, 25, from Sydney.

Tyler-May is seven weeks into her initial 60-day program and has already extended her stay for a further 30 days.

For the first time ever, she is positive about her recovery and excitedly making plans for the future.

“I’ve done a lot of admissions in Sydney. Here the program allows for staff to be more consistent and well-rounded in their care,” she says.

“The support is phenomenal.”

Tyler-May says that instead of concentrating solely on participants’ weight and reaching a point where they could be sent home, the Wandi Nerida programs teach life skills such as cooking and shopping. The program also offers specialised one-to-one outings with dietitians and psychologists.

Recovery navigators and over a third of the staff with lived experiences of eating disorders allow participants to see living success stories.

“To be able to see they’ve come through their eating disorder is an amazing experience to have around us,” Tyler-May says.

“It really gives you hope. It feels like your team is working with you, not against you.

“My dad came to see me from Sydney and he said he was shocked at the person I am now and the person that’s come back out that he hasn’t seen in years.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever committed to long-term treatment.

“I don’t feel like I’m in a hospital or treatment facility.

“Here I have a team that believes in me and that I can recover for the first time in my life.”

Tyler-May says she had suffered anorexia nervosa since about 2017 when she was 19. Her condition has since been diagnosed as “severe and enduring”.

“With severe and enduring, they (medical practitioners) think you are going to be in and out of hospital the rest of your life. They don’t think you can maintain yourself in the community,” she says.

But the Bachelor of Communications graduate is looking forward to a time when she can return to the Sunshine Coast to use her degree and lived experiences and possibly act as a recovery navigator for other Wandi Nerida participants.

Thirty-two-year-old mum Paula, from the Gold Coast, is learning how to love herself, regardless of her size and weight.

The mum of a 12-year-old daughter is also at the seven-week mark of the program, which her husband suggested she try after he stumbled upon an article on the treatment facility.

Paula has had her eating disorder “for as long as I can remember”.

Since the age of 14, she has been on see-sawing cycles of bingeing and restricting eating, with a tendency to overexercise as well.

“It’s just pushed down our throats all the time that you need to look a certain way,” Paula says.

“I never saw anything wrong with restricting my calories extensively or fasting for long periods of time because it’s very widely accepted in society.”

As a mum, the live-in facility has given her the time away from home she needed to allow herself to recover, and she has signed up for the 30-day extension.

“It feels like they actually really care about you and believe you can recover.”

If you or someone you know is struggling, called Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you need help with eating disorders, call the free Butterfly National helpline on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673).

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