Australia: Defence sends staff on ‘cult’ courses

The Department of Defence has spent thousands of dollars on professional development courses run by an organisation listed in France as a possible cult.

At least $12,000 has been spent by the department on Landmark Education courses, which are run in 22 countries.

Landmark Education says hundreds of government agencies globally use the courses.

When asked if the organisation was a cult, a US-based spokeswoman said it was “absolutely not the case”.

“What happened in France was that a commission established by the French parliament issued a report in which they listed almost 200 organisations as being possible cults … We were never contacted. We were inappropriately included in that list,” she said on ABC radio.

Defence Minister Warren Snowdon said the Government was reviewing career development spending by defence.

“Career development and training, we believe is an extremely important part of working with defence personnel,” Mr Snowdon said on ABC radio.

“We’re in the process now of doing an audit, completely unrelated with anything to do with Landmark, which is being undertaken into learning and development to make sure that they meet our needs.

“We have to be very sure that the courses that people do undertake are relevant, appropriate and indeed in line with what community expectations might be.”

Australia: City uses taxpayers money to send police and staff to Landmark Education seminars

Taxpayers are picking up the bill to send police officers and bureaucrats on a controversial personal enlightenment course.

Victoria Police staff and public servants have been sent on the “transformation” seminars run by Landmark Education, which was set up by a former Scientologist.

Police and Emergency Services Minister Bob Cameron has confirmed at least 37 police and public sector staff attended courses between 2001 and 2006 – at a cost of more than $16,602.

Landmark Education has previously taken legal action against newspapers, magazines, websites and television programs that have criticised it.

Its founder, Warner Erhard, is a former Scientologist. Courses promise participants romance, money, sex and intimacy and “access to power”.

Course applicants must first submit to four-day entry forums, which last up to 15 hours a day.

In online forums, the group has been described as a “cult”.

Past attendees have said the group had employed aggressive recruiting methods and put pressure on them to sign up other people and return for more courses.

It has taken legal action against Google and YouTube to have criticisms of its products removed. In 2006 it took action against a Queensland website owner to remove online claims about the organisation.

A spokesman for the Brumby Government could not say how many bureaucrats had been sent on the course.

Mr Cameron confirmed police and public sector staff had attended.

“Decisions on the appropriateness of staff attending courses by Landmark Education are made by individual managers who remain best-placed to assess the development needs of their staff,” he said.

State Liberal MP Murray Thompson said the money should have been spent on fighting crime.

A spokeswoman for Landmark said the group was in talks with several State Government departments.

She said businesses such as Apple Computers, Reebok and Mercedes-Benz had sent staff on Landmark courses.