Welcome to The Gawler Cancer Foundation and the Yarra Valley Living Centre
Whether you’re faced with a cancer diagnosis, living with multiple sclerosis, or simply want to reach a greater level of overall wellbeing, we’re here to provide you with quality education, guidance and support at our Lifestyle Medicine based retreat programs, in the beautiful Yarra Valley, Victoria.
Our mission is to improve the recovery outcomes and quality of life for people affected by cancer or multiple sclerosis, and to assist those looking to create a greater sense of health and vitality in their lives.
For over 30 years we have been achieving this through the delivery of lifestyle-focused cancer retreat programs, multiple sclerosis retreat programs and general wellbeing retreats programs at our Yarra Valley Living Centre.
Take charge of your healing and wellbeing at The Gawler Cancer Foundation and Yarra Valley Living Centre…
Situated within 40 acres of picturesque Australian bushland in Victoria’s beautiful Yarra Valley, our purpose-built retreat centre offers a peaceful sanctuary way from fast-paced modern life, to immerse in the teachings and focus fully on your own health and wellbeing needs.
On the grounds are special spaces designed for quiet meditative practice; landscaped gardens provide many places to enjoy nature; and our biodynamic and organic vegetable gardens provide ample seasonal produce for the delicious plant-based wholefood meals served by our infamous retreat kitchen. You can learn more about our centre and take a video tour of our facilities here.
During your retreat stay you will participate in experiential learning sessions, delving into the scientific benefits behind our recommended 7 Essential Elements, as well as receiving the counselling and support to implement these elements into your everyday life.
Our 7 essential elements, as briefly outlined below, work to encourage the body’s own innate healing potential and to generate a sense of inner peace and wellness. The degree to which each retreat focuses on these individual elements depends on the length and purpose of that particular retreat. The explanations provided below are mostly in relation to our cancer programs. Please click here for a more detailed explanation and to learn how these practices can help you achieve your own unique heath and wellbeing goals.
A regular meditation practice can help to rebalance and support the body’s natural regulatory systems, and it’s inherent capacity to heal itself. There is now an impressive pool of research that points to the therapeutic benefits of meditation for people living with cancer, including improved immunity, pain management, stress reduction, mental wellbeing and cancer healing outcomes. At our centre we pride ourselves in an experiential learning environment where participants are guided and supported in the process of developing a sustainable personal meditation practice.
Learn how you can eat your way to a more vibrant and healthy life with our plant-based wholefoods dietary approach. This approach, as highlighted in our popular Eat Well : Be Well Cookbook, creates an anti-inflammatory, alkaline environment within the body which detoxifies, aids digestion, assists immune function and supports the body’s natural healing processes. This approach is further broken down into two specific diet pathways: the Gawler ‘healing’ diet – tailored to people living with chronic illness, and a general ‘wellbeing’ diet for anyone wanting to take a proactive approach to their overall health and vitality.
According to the World Health Organisation, around one third of deaths from cancer are due to the 5 leading behavioral and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use. Our dietary approach for cancer management not only addresses these dietary risks, but offers an easy to implement daily dose of therapeutic-nutrition that you will leaving you feeling deeply nourished, satisfied and more energized.
Power of Mind
Research in the relatively new sub-section of biology called psychoneuroimmunology had identified that the mind is connected – through the nervous and endocrine systems – to the immune system. Drawing on this line of research, along with a variety of published works such as Candace Pert’s Molecules of Emotion and Bruce Lipton’s The Biology of Belief, we examine the nature of the conscious and sub-conscious mind and the different ways in which their functions can assist immune function and healing. Learn mindfulness techniques that can help you to tap into your subconscious mind, and harness the power of your conscious mind to set clear goals and make empowered choices.
In his book The Essence of Health, Associate Professor Craig Hassed explains that immune cells mirror emotional states. Emotions like joy, gratitude, laughter and forgiveness don’t just add to our quality of life and sense of wellbeing, they also stimulate the body’s natural healing processes and strengthen the immune system. On the flipside there is research to support the role of depression in not only the development of cancer but also an accelerator for cancer progression. Releasing past hurts and learning how to identify and navigate through difficult emotions, not only frees up the physical, mental and emotional energy to focus on ones own health and wellbeing goals, but it also supports your immune system. Individual counselling is available to help you through this transformative process.
Purpose and Meaning
Identifying the purpose and meaning in your life can have a powerful impact on your quality of life, your state of mind, your emotional health and your motivations. Chronic illness, especially advanced stages of cancer, forces us to face our own mortality. Connecting with your own purpose and meaning can help to offset fears, maintain a positive state of mind and motivate you to live your best life possible, for however long that may be.
In addition to improving cancer survival rates, regular moderate exercise has a wide spectrum of health benefits including reduced risks of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and some cancers, weight regulation, physical strength and bone density, pain management, mental health and mood stabilisation, increased vitality, improved immunity and longer life expectancy. As well as exploring the research that highlights the importance of regular exercise, participants enjoy the opportunity to experience a variety of movement therapies run by expert facilitators, including yoga, qigong and mindfulness walks.
From a practical point of view we can all recognise that having a support network can help us de-stress, explore and deal with difficult emotions, find new perspectives, problem solve and develop healthy coping strategies. Social isolation on the other hand predisposes us to a whole range of illnesses, including cancer, and has been shown to undermine the body’s immune system and therefore our capacity to heal.
During our retreats and programs, participants are invited to look at what supports them at the time of crisis, and to consider the effectiveness of their medical, family and social networks. Small group sessions are incorporated into the program to provide a safe space to debrief, address difficulties, and develop strategies – not only for those with cancer, but also for their carers. Therapists are sensitive to needs as they arise and are ready to support where required. Individual counselling is also available during and after some of the programs.