A Mangrove Mountain ashram whose former religious guru allegedly had sex with under age girls is in the sights of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse. The commission has announced that it will hold a public inquiry into the response of the Satyananda Yoga Ashram to allegations of child sexual abuse by the ashram’s former spiritual leader in the 1970s and 1980s.
The public hearing will inquire into the response of the Satyananda Yoga Ashram located at Mangrove Mountain, New South Wales, to allegations of child sexual abuse by the Ashram’s former spiritual leader in the 1970s and 1980s.
The scope and purpose of the public hearing is to inquire into:
- The response between 1974 and 2014 of the Satyananda Yoga Ashram at Mangrove Mountain, New South Wales, to allegations or reports of child sexual abuse made against Swami Akhandananda Saraswati.
- The operation of the Ashram between 1974 and 1989 in relation to matters of child sexual abuse.
- The systems, policies and procedures in place at the Ashram between 1974 and 1989, and currently, in relation to raising and responding to allegations of or concerns about child sexual abuse.
- Any related matters.
The ashram, in a secluded part of Mangrove Mountain between Dharug and Popran national parks, is billed as the largest yoga retreat centre in the southern hemisphere and remains in operation.
In the 1980s it was promoted as a beautiful, peaceful place on Mangrove Creek, where volunteers worked in spectacular terraced gardens whose foundations were walls of recycled car tyres.
The late Swami Saraswati, also known as Swamiji, is described by some supporters as the father of Australian yoga. Lawyer for the ashram, Aaron Kernaghan, said the swami was not allowed to return to the ashram once he was released from prison.
The ashram had co-operated fully with the royal commission since allegations were raised, and was ‘‘hoping this process will be a significant step in its long history, and lay down a strong foundation for a way forward that protects and cars for children to the highest possible standard’’, Mr Kernaghan said.