Nungkari – the healing journey

Nungkari is a new state of the art healing centre for addictions, trauma and depression.
Nungkari is a new state of the art healing centre for addictions, trauma and depression.

Nungkari is an indigenous word for ‘healer’, and on a beautiful property  in the hills behind Byron Bay, Candida Baker discovers a new healing centre offering specialized support services for those in need.

The first thing I notice about Nungkari, the holistic treatment centre which has just opened in the Byron Shire, is the sense of peace surrounding the property.

It’s there in the quiet, tree-studded road that leads to the property, which sits at the end of the road, with its modern, corrugated iron, tin-roofed dwellings. It’s there in the amazing gardens the Nungkari team have planted and the bush they’ve regenerated, and it’s there in the quiet elegance of everything they’ve built for the functioning of the centre.

The forces behind Byron Shire’s second licensed rehabilitation centre for alcohol and drug addiction (the first being the well-established Buttery), are managing director Kylie Beattie, and clinical director David Godden. As well as addictions, the centre offers its program for eating disorders, depression, anxiety and trauma, and for both Godden and Beattie the desire to offer those struggling with life issues a place where they are able to reconnect – with nature, life, and themselves.

From left to right:  David Beattie, Kylie Beattie, David Godden and Trudy Godden

From left to right: David Beattie, Kylie Beattie, David Godden and Trudy Godden

“The main thing I’ve noticed with substance addiction is that people need active connection,” says David Godden who has also worked at the Buttery, for the outreach program Intra-reach, and in Lismore in both in and out-patient mental health with Lismore Base Hospital. It’s understanding this need for connection (and their personal journeys through addictions and recovery) that has prompted both Beattie and Godden to create a six-week programme for recovery, which in turn is followed by a six-month stepping-stone supported living programme.

Group therapy room at Nungkari.

Group therapy room at Nungkari.

Beattie, who landed in the Shire two years ago from Sydney, has not only had many years therapy experience behind, particularly in the field of Gestalt, but she and her husband Dave – (not David Godden, she points out) also used to run a business in Sydney employing over 80 people. “A few years ago Dave and I decided we just didn’t want to live in the rat race anymore, and we decided we would travel with our kids in a van, and simply stop where we felt like it.” She laughs at the memory. “We were such city people that our friends were like – ‘You are SO not going to do that’ – but we did, and we ended up stopping at Broken Head, just outside Byron and living on an intentional community for a while.”

With her marketing and business experience meshing with her knowledge and practice in the therapeutic world, it wasn’t long before Beattie began to imagine creating a centre which would have world’s best practice for treatment – and to imagine bringing together some of the area’s best therapists under one roof. Having met Godden through professional contacts, the pair realised that they shared similar goals, and so the dream of creating Nungkari was born – the name coming directly from the word for an Aboriginal traditional healer. Nungkaris played a vital role in maintaing the health of nomadic Aboriginal communities where resilience was essential to survival.

Godden knows all about resilience. With a background as both a carpenter and a butcher, and he says, “amateur dancer”, becoming a clinical director of a healing centre wouldn’t necessarily seem the obvious path, but for Godden, who had his own history of substance abuse, the catalyst for change was his father’s death. “When my dad passed way my family was shredded,” he says. “It was as if everything just blew apart, and I really wanted to understand what had happened. I realised I needed to get away from Sydney and away from the family, so I moved up here and was lucky enough to move in with Mick Williams, who was then at the Byron Bay Youth House. His philosophy was that you can do whatever you want, and he was an inspiration to me.”

At the opening the next day, the three creators – Beattie, her husband Dave, and David Godden all spoke eloquently about their own journeys through addiction, their moving speeches prompting internationally known Family Constellation Facilitator and Gestalt therapist Maria Dolenc to say: “You are all three the Wounded Healers…but when we have healed ourselves then we must go out into the world and begin to teach what we know.”

The healers gather for the opening of the Nungkari Treatment Centre.  Photo:  Candida Baker

The healers gather for the opening of the Nungkari Treatment Centre.

Through the six-week programme participants are given sessions in counselling, art therapy, equine-guided therapy, naturopathy and yoga – to name just a few, and some of Australia’s most trusted names in healing are part of the Nungkari team – psychiatrist Dr Jan Peter Siefken, for instance, Susan Marshall, the ex CEO of South Pacific Private Hospital, psychologist Peter Chown, disordered eating consultant psychotherapist Jodie Gale, as well as numerous locally-based healers.

Any holistic centre worth its salt is going to produce its own vegetables these days, and Nungkari is no exception, with an organic vegetable garden well on its way to production, as well as the honey produced by Dave Beattie’s bees. “We’re also part of the Koala Connections bush regeneration team,” says Kylie, “and we’ve installed a solar system, LED lighting, as well as establishing a bush regeneration team to repair the creek zone – in a sense we are about healing the place as well as the people.” It sounds like the perfect symbiotic relationship.

But creating a place of such quality is not a cheap undertaking and the price of the project is reflected in the cost of the programme, but as Godden explains: “Often we are changing behaviours that have been there since childhood. If you get people to think about what they’ve spent on drugs or alcohol or repeated patterns because of trauma, then Nungkari seems not only reasonable but vital.”

Kylie nods. “What price do you put on your life and your health?” she says. “If what we can do is take people from addiction into full recovery and an active, fulfilling life, then it’s more than worth it.”T

At the time of writing prices are approximately $890 per day – extended payment plans are available.  To contact Nungkari Treatment Centre call 02 66844145 or email or visit the website: nungkaritreatment




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