Concerns have been raised about a partnership between the Federal Government and a drug awareness group run by members of the controversial Church of Scientology.
Corporate lawyer and researcher Grainne O'Donovan said the partnership could potentially be used by the church, through Drug Free Ambassadors Australia (DFAA), to try to recruit members from schools and youth groups.
The DFAA - sponsored by Scientology - is a partner in the government's National Compact set up by former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd in March within the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR).
The DEEWR website says the National Compact is an agreement between government and "not-for-profit" community organisations to provide "real input into government policy and program delivery".
"(The Compact) enables true collaboration on key social, economic and environmental challenges facing communities and it allows the broad range of not-for-profit groups to work with government to achieve a shared vision," it says.
Ms O'Donovan said it was "worrying" that the DFAA was in a position to influence government policy, considering serious widespread concerns about its practices.
"They are citing the entry on the government's Harm Prevention Register in written materials, giving the impression they are a government-approved charity," she said.
"The ambassadors aren't just against illegal drugs they are also against approved medical drugs and psychiatry."
The Register of Harm Prevention Charities - part of the Department of Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) - helps charities get financial support from the community by providing a tax-free incentive for donations.
On a DFAA link on the department's website the group describes itself as "a charitable organisation under the Harm Prevention Register that was established to meet the increasing demand for the Say No to Drugs, Say Yes to Life community drug prevention program, which members of Scientology churches and other volunteer organizations have been conducting for over 20 years around the world."
DFAA's spokeswoman is scientologist Carly Crutchfield who was the keynote speaker at a wealth promotion seminar at the Gold Coast in November.
She described herself then as a "multimillionaire property developer educator".
Professor Ian Hickie, a psychiatrist and executive director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute, said some of the DFAA's information was "entirely inappropriate and ill-informed".
He said the group confused illicit drugs and medically-approved ones and its website implied national endorsement of "this disreputable position".
Last week, a Senate economics committee report recommended that a commission be established to investigate the finances and tax-free status of the not-for-profit sector - including religious groups - to ensure they were providing genuine service. The report also recommended that the Attorney-General look into the creation of an "anti-cult" law.
Professor Hickie said Australia's two major political parties had refused to investigate the Church of Scientology because they were "too scared".
"Scientologists have a long history of intimidation of its critics," he said. "I congratulate (South Australian Independent Senator) Nick Xenophon and the (Australian) Greens on their efforts to have them investigated."
Ms Crutchfield said on the website: "We just need to get the facts out there and widely known by the public. This means school kids, young adults, drug users, politicians, teachers, professionals, world leaders - everyone."
Ms O'Donovan believes many people would assume the group has the government's endorsement and could book Ms Crutchfield and others to address students and youth groups without realising they were Scientologists.
The founder of Scientology was American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. One of his programs for drug-taking children is "purification", described as "a Scientology religious service that frees the individual from the physical, mental and spiritual effects of substance abuse."
The program includes exercise, up to five hours a day in a sauna and concentrated dosages of vitamins.
The church's Community Relations manager, Cyrus Brooks said many teachers, charities, police and lawyers had contacted the DFAA for information on how to deal with drug use.
"We haven't sent any people to schools but tell anyone who's interested to download materials for free on our website," he said.
He said the DFAA program was "never" used to recruit members to the church.
"We are up-front about the connection with Scientology and let people know who contact us," he said.
"I have no idea if DEEWR knew the connection when we became partners but it's on our website."
Queensland Secondary Principals' Association president, Norm Fuller said the DFAA material about illegal drugs "gives some relevant information".
"The material associated with prescription drugs sends a different message that would need to be questioned," he said.
"The fact that this material is associated with a specific group, such as the Church of Scientology, brings into question their reasons and purpose."
Education Queensland spokeswoman, Yvana Jones, said the program was not offered at Queensland state schools and it would not be recommended.
Senator Ursula Stephens, the Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector said compact partners were not invited to contribute to government policy "directly".
"Being a National Compact Partner does not equate to any endorsement of an organisation by government, so therefore it is irrelevant that they may be connected with the Church of Scientology, or any other faith-based organisation," she said.
"As organisations sign up voluntarily there are no checks conducted on organisations."
Dr Stephens' spokeswoman said she "had heard" the DFAA was connected to Scientology.
Source: The Sun-Herald