Citation – Australian Naturopathic Summit

headshot Sue Evans, Jenny Adams

Sue Evans, Vis Award; Jenny Adams who was awarded the Naturopath of the Year Award. Kingscliff, NSW, August 2016

The Vis Award acknowledges persons who exemplify the Vis, the Healing Power of Nature- a core principle of naturopathic medicine, as demonstrated through their work, life and/or community service. Typically, this award is presented to an elder within the naturopathic profession who exemplifies the art and spirit of the healing power of nature

The Vis Award recipient is a Naturopath who exemplifies the Vis Medicatrix Naturae by their understanding and application of the Healing Power of Nature through the following qualities:

  • Align themselves and their practice with the core principles of Naturopathic Medicine
  • Have become masters of their craft
  • Understand and respect the Vis Medicatrix Naturae in their practice

Sue Evans has been a herbalist for over forty years, as clinician, teacher, leader, researcher and consultant. Indeed she probably introduced some of us here today to the Vis Medicatrix Naturae and I can describe many ways in which Sue exemplifies this;  her unwavering belief in vital force, her passion for organic, locally grown and personally manufactured herbal medicines and her advocacy for the rights of plants as well as people.

Sue understands the commitment, dedication and compassion that nurture a therapeutic relationship, and the challenge of making a profitable business in a climate where naturopathic practitioners are marginalised by main stream health services.  Her response in those early days of practice in Melbourne, was to collaborate with likeminded herbalists and establish a herbal support group, VicHerbs, which thrives to this day and was the first of many local chapters of the National Herbalists Associations. This spirit of innovation, consultation and collaboration is typical of Sue.

Her work with and for the National Herbalists Association of Australia is well known, and in 2009 Sue was named the Herbalist of the Year by the NHAA.

Sue was the foundation lecturer in herbal medicine at Southern Cross University and currently lectures at the University of Tasmania. Sue has worked with leading researchers and educators locally and internationally and highlights in her academic career include research publications in such prestigious journals as ‘Social Science and Medicine’ and many conference presentations including to the International Society of Ethnobiology ‘.It was at Sue’s instigation that the Southern Cross University herb garden became one of the Sacred Seeds Gardens of the respected Missouri Botanic Gardens in 2013.

And this brings me to what I think of as Sue’s unique gift to us all as naturopaths and herbalists, and a profound way of honouring the Vis.

Sue Evans stands out from our ranks by articulating the inconvenient questions that force us to check and reset our personal and professional moral compass:

  • How does the application of a reductionist philosophy to medicinal plants change our practice? What are the benefits and limitations of the evidence base?
  • How are we to balance the trend to higher doses with the sustainability of the plants on which we depend?
  • Are traditional owners of intellectual property around medicinal plants accorded appropriate respect and remuneration?
  • And as Australian naturopaths broaden their materia medica and prescribe plants and foods sourced from ‘exotic’ cultures and locations, are we mindful of the repercussions in local communities whose staple nutritional and medicinal supplies have become cash crops?

Sue both challenges and inspires; interrogating our practice, our assumptions and forcing us to take our heads from the sand and embrace our professional responsibilities on multiple levels.  And despite these challenging, even abrasive stands, she is both respected and loved as a herbalist who exemplifies the healing power of nature.

Cathy Avila 25/08/2016

Inaugral Australian Naturopathic Summit August 2016