Centre means new hope for people with eating disorders

There is new hope and help available for Australians with eating disorders, with the opening today of the Wandi Nerida centre on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.

Wandi Nerida is Australia’s first specialist residential eating disorder recovery centre. It has 13 beds with shared accommodation, and has been purpose-built to create a home-like environment for participants. It will be open to people from anywhere in Australia. The centre is piloting this model of care so that it can be rolled out more widely across Australia.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said Wandi Nerida will provide a person-centred and multidisciplinary approach to care.

“The Australian Government is deeply committed to helping Australians affected by eating disorders and body image issues – and this centre will bring new hope for many people and the families, friends and communities who support them,” Minister Hunt said.

“Wandi Nerida will fill a critical gap in treating eating disorders, sitting between hospital and community programs. It will provide individualised and phased care – in a home-like environment – that patients will be able to continue when they return home.”

The Australian Government has provided funding of $6 million for the centre, which will be operated by a subsidiary of the Butterfly Foundation. It will welcome its first participants from next month.

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, David Coleman, said the number of people in Australia with an eating disorder at any given time is estimated to be around one million.

Of these, 47 per cent have binge eating disorder, 12 per cent have bulimia nervosa, 3 per cent have anorexia nervosa and 38 per cent have other eating disorders.

“Eating disorders are extremely complex illnesses and have one of the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric illness,” Assistant Minister Coleman said.

“Often prolonged care is needed and this has a significant impact on the individual and their families and carers. While eating disorders are complex, full recovery is possible with timely and appropriate care and this is exactly what this new centre will deliver.”

Federal member for Fisher, Andrew Wallace, said “Today is the happy culmination of six years of incredible hard work and collaboration by our local community. From endED founders Mark and Gay Forbes and the Butterfly Foundation, to Roy and Nola Thompson and all the local businesses who have stepped up to offer their support, the Sunshine Coast has truly come together, with the support of the Federal Government, to create something life-changing here in our community.”

“The opening today of Wandi Nerida finally cements the Sunshine Coast’s place as an Australian leader in mental health. What is being accomplished here with the Morrison Government’s support is showing the way forward for eating disorder treatment nationwide.”

The Australian Government is tackling the impact of eating disorders on a number of fronts, with new measures in this year’s Budget building on existing investments in a coordinated manner to ensure continuity of care and access to high quality treatment and support.

In the Budget, the Government is providing $26.9 million over four years, from 2021–22 to 2024–25, to increase the availability and quality of care options. This includes:

  • $2.5 million to deliver the final phase of the workforce credentialing project to ensure all Australians have access to high quality care delivered under the Medicare eating disorder items;
  • $1.9 million to provide training to staff working in Australian Government funded mental health centres such as Headspace and Adult Mental Health Centres, improving access to free, timely and quality care;
  • $13 million to establish a National Eating Disorder Research Centre to coordinate and conduct world-leading research into eating disorders; and
  • $300,000 to enable Eating Disorders Families Australia to continue operation of the “strive” program, providing mental health support for families and carers of people with eating disorders.

This is on top of the Government’s previous investment of $63 million for six new community-based residential eating disorder treatment centres across Australia, including Wandi Nerida.

The Government also provided $110.7 million to introduce 64 new Medicare items for eating disorders in November 2019. These items enable patients with anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders with complex needs to access up to 40 psychological and 20 dietetic services a year.