Central Coast Express Advocate
20/05/2020 Author: Jess Verrender
The buyers of a Central Coast yoga retreat with a horrific past have promised that better things are to come for the notorious site.
Located in the foothills of Mangrove Mountain, the huge 99ha property made headlines in 2014 when a Royal Commission revealed that children of guests at the Satyananda Ashram were drugged, raped and beaten in the 1970s and 1980s.
The property at 300 Mangrove Creek Rd has now sold to a Christian group, the Olivet Assembly for $3.8 million via CBRE Regional.
Board member David Chang said that they were hoping to create a fresh start.
“It is really unfortunate and sad what happened there. We want to write a new history,” he told the Express Advocate.
The property was listed in 2018 by The Academy of Yoga Science, a registered charity rebranded from Satyananda. The Academy said in a press release that the entire proceeds of the property sale, as well as other previous asset sales, will be used to fund a not-for-profit foundation devoted to advancing the cause of yoga.
“The foundation has already made its first grant, providing funding to an Australian registered charity aimed at bringing the benefits of yoga directly to people experiencing disadvantage and mental health issues who are not able to attend organised yoga classes,” it stated.
The 2014 Royal Commission heard testimony from nine victims of abuse at the site who later revealed shocking details about the ashram in court.
One of the most gruesome testimonies came from ‘Shishy’, the handmaiden of the camp’s leader Swami Akhandananda Saraswati.
Shishy was said to have brought young girls to the swami for sexual initiation.
The pair were said to have deliberately created wedges between parents and their children, surrendering their names and identities to transform themselves into disciples of the community.
Satyananda reached a confidential settlement with a group of survivors in 2017.
The Olivet Assembly, who are part of a global denomination of the Christian Evangelical Church, are hoping to write a new history.
The group plan to host international missionaries, set up a training centre and use the picturesque surrounds to offer respite to those in need.
“Some locals spoke to us when we saw the property and said that before the yoga group was established there, it was a healing place for indigenous people,” Mr Chang said.
“We want to do something similar – it is about spreading the gospel, but also using the retreat to help people with health issues. It is an absolutely beautiful place, surrounded by mountains. People can come here for respite.”