2006: A Study Odyssey - by Stewart Dawes

It's said that one's years in higher education are usually looked back on as the best of your life. Let's hope this isn't so, after all, it's worth endeavouring to make each new year of your life slightly better than the last. And yet, in 2005, there were more courses available than ever before - and for many, gaining qualifications has become, rather than a parent or peer pressure activity, a conscious choice into a life-transforming new path.

So it is with the ever-expanding holistic educational opportunities - these are pretty much all courses which are undertaken voluntarily, and often at great personal sacrifice by the student. Most of the holistic courses available still do not attract the benefit of government funding, such as Austudy, and therefore it hasn't been uncommon, in the last decade, for students to study part-time over many years in order to gain qualifications in naturopathy, herbal medicine, or homeopathy.

In the healing modalities, it's quite normal to visit a shiatsu practitioner or an aromatherapist who has a number of diplomas upon their walls, each painstakingly grafted a year at a time. Does this suggest the therapist has a habit of only applying themselves to relatively short 12 month diploma courses, perhaps as the result of an unwillingness to commit to anything long-term, the classic dilettante? Of course, the reverse is invariably the case. Until recently, these modality courses have only been available as 12 month diplomas, yet the student has known all along that to study just one modality may be a convenient way of getting back into the workforce. But there's a higher mind at work - the student has pressed on with further diplomas in order to understand more profoundly the workings of the human body, or the human energy field, drawing links and parallels between aspects of human health that are often not just illuminating, but groundbreaking.

Increasingly, many allopathic doctors are starting to take courses in holistic health as further evidence of the burgeoning credibility of the healing arts. Nowadays, a budding Deepak Chopra can be found at almost every local healing centre, while many colleges of natural medicine are jammed to the rafters with students who are totally passionate about the subjects they are studying. What an exciting future this promises, as we move away from our society's traditional reliance on a medical model that is slowly falling apart at the seams towards a greater reliance on maintaining and optimising our own health.

As we've explored in NOVA throughout this year, the natural therapies industry has started to gain a wider respectability and that can only be to its - and the health-seeking public's - benefit! Back in January, we reported on signs of an upsurge in confidence in the industry reflected in such things as new degree status courses offered for the first time by a private provider in NSW, the state that's the "hardest nut to crack" in achieving recognition for complementary medicine. The degrees in naturopathy, homoeopathy and herbal medicine through Nature Care College have been a long time coming - the college has been in operation for 31 years!

The breakthrough in recognition in Australia's most populous state complements other degree courses already available through public and private providers (the latter including the Australian College of Natural Medicine over various state campuses and the National Institute of Health Sciences) and with it comes the undeniable status and clout of "professionalism".

2005 has seen another significant step forward for the industry - the Federal Government has sat up and taken notice. The Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott has taken to speaking of "the wellness industry" in terms that can only promise good times ahead. Undeniably, his recognition has been motivated by money, or to be precise, money saved. When we consider that currently 70 per cent of our health care dollars are spent in the last two months of our lives and the enormous costs involved in supporting medical intervention in an ageing population, the whole idea of preventative health care suddenly becomes a lot more appealing. There's nothing wrong with looking at the unsustainable costs of the present medical system. It's screaming out for attention. If that's the incentive to move to embracing natural and complementary approaches to prevent us becoming ill in the first place, so be it. At least it's a move in the right direction.

And what a fantastic selection the holistic student of 2006 has at her/his disposal: the cliché 'from Ayurveda to Zen' is an abridged way of hinting that there are far more natural therapies and healing modalities available than letters in the alphabet.

Alongside some of the best known therapeutic study options, there are so many modalities now available: Acu-Energetics, Art Therapy, Bowen Therapy, Chinese Medicine, Colour Therapy, Core Energetics, Counselling, Craniosacral Therapy, Energy Medicine, Feldenkrais, Feng Shui, Flower Essences, Hakomi, Holistic Dentistry, Horstmann Technique, Hypnotherapy, Kahuna Massage, Kinesiology, Meditation, Orion Theta Healing, Pranic Healing, Pilates, Personal Development, Polarity Therapy, Rebirthing, Reconnective Healing, Reflexology, Reiki, Remedial Massage, Spiritual Healing, Tantra, Yoga and Zen Chi Therapies.

Not all of these will become degree programs with full accreditation by government and industry bodies, but we reserve our predictions as to which will and which won't.

Through inspiration, passion and dedication, many of tomorrow's healers will start their studies in 2006, and some will go on to help hundreds, and occasionally, even thousands of people with health issues. As NOVA Magazine has been publishing for nearly 13 years, we feel honoured to have been standing in quiet alliance with many qualified professional therapists, some who will have gained entirely new careers through colleges and courses they initially discovered through the pages of NOVA Magazine.

If our first-ever Education Guide 2006 results in a handful of new people redirecting their lives into spiritually satisfying holistic careers, we'd love to hear about it in the years to come.

Wishing every holistic student greatly enlightening success in 2006!