Category: General Advice

– Bargains for Vegans ~
Welcome to VeganVoucherz Sydney, where we offer bargains for vegans!
To claim any voucher on this page just print it out, or to save paper you can save it as a pdf, or send it to yourself or a friend via email.
Enjoy! :-)


Sorry For The Errors At Our Feb ’18 Cruise Party.. Here’s What We Are Doing About Them.

Sydney Vegan Club, our volunteer team and I take great pride in organising events that are enjoyable, inspiring, insightful and/or entertaining in all facets. In the past five years we have organised and hosted over six hundred meetups and events, many with hundreds of people attending. As co-ordinator of Sydney Vegan Club, I always have the best intentions to create smoothly run events, and try to minimise spaces for errors and issues. Most of our events over the last five years have been hugely successful, with warm reviews and positive outcomes.

Unfortunately there were some errors at our february 2018 cruise party which led to some negative reviews and reports of a poor experience had by some of the guests. I’d like to address these issues for the final time. There has also been some confusion and inaccuracies floating around social media that I’d like to clarify.

To begin, I’d like to point out that a cruise party with hundreds of guests,  as well as entertainers, staff, food, equipment is a very challenging and complex thing to organise and put together. It takes 40-60 hours to plan and create an event of this scale. Most people would never consider taking on such a task, and therefore not having experienced it, are very much unaware of whats involved or how challenging it is. With an event of this complexity, there are many areas where errors could occur and things could go not according to the original plan or vision. There are run sheets to design, briefings to give and tiny details that have to be attended to and organised. Whilst the past four previous cruise parties have helped me in some way to gain some experience, they were much smaller and held on a different boat with a different cruise company. Each event venue has different challenges and really the only way to gain experience is by actually doing it, making attempts at creating a successful event, and learning from that experience.

Discount offered to all guests towards a future event
I acknowledge that some guests did not have an enjoyable overall experience due to the errors with the food and/or drinks, and I’m sorry that they had this experience. In balance to the negative reviews, I’d also like to point out that many guests reported that they had a great time, and enjoyed the event immensely. I also asknowledge that some of the guests may have not bothered or ‘gotten around to’  raising their complaints after the event.

Rather than trying to establish which of the 375 guests were happy and which were not, we’ve decided to offer the following two options to ALL guests of the event:

Our next cruise event is planned for sat 21st april. It will be very similar to last event, although obviously we will take great care to address and rectify the issues regarding food and drinks. Our next event is a charity event, with 100% of all profits going to Peanuts Funny Farm and Where Pigs Fly Animal Sanctuaries. I’ll be doing the 40-60 hours that it takes to plan, market and host this event on a totally voluntary basis.


We understand that some people won’t be available on the 21st of April, so are offering a discount off any (one) upcoming event over the next three months. SVC events may include food events, nutrition seminars, cooking classes and film events so we hope you find something that appeals to you that you can attend. To find out about what events are coming up, check out our most recent newsletter here, and keep an eye out on upcoming newsletters – feel free to subscribe

How to claim your discount:
Once you’ve decided which event you’d like to attend, simply email me via stating the event name and date, and I’ll write back with a discount code that you can use on the ticket page.

Clarifying The Issues With The Food Quantity
I acknowledge that some guests felt that you were not adequately fed at our event, and I am sorry that you had this experience.

To clarify, the event was originally advertised on eventbrite as ‘seven courses of canapes’. The event sold out under this expectation, meaning that everyone who purchased tickets for the event purchased a ticket with the expectation of seven courses of canapes. Some time after the event had already sold out, we did a post on our facebook event page announcing that we would have ‘nine different dishes’. I wrote this because I was excited that our food sponsors had extended their food offerings, and wanted to share this excitement with our guests. I was optimistic and confident about the quantities of food served would be satifactory. I did not intend to mislead anyone or cuase anyone discomfort of not being properly fed.

Oxford dictionary defines canapes as ‘A small piece of bread or pastry with a savoury topping’. It is generally understood by most people that canapes will be small morsels – not a large meal.

I thought that we were well stocked up for everyone to have a decent meal. The quantity of food ordered for the event and served on the night was more than 171kg, to cater for the 375 guests who showed up. This is more than 456gm per person, ample to satisfy the expectations of ‘canapes’, and even have a decent sized meal.

The food order included:
vegetables in sticks x 18kg
Adzuki Bean Patties 10kg
Pumpkin Bites 6kg
Brown Rice Veg Bites 6kg
Beetroot, Relish x 4kg
Tahini Sauce x 4kg
Salsa x 4kg
Tzatziki x 4kg
Smokey chipotle x 4kg
Hommus x 5kg
Beet Hommus x 5kg
Capsicum Hommus x 5kg
Roasted Pumpkin Hommus x 5kg
Babaganouge x 5kg
Kale Pesto x 5kg
Black bean salsa x 5kg
Cheezy Kale & Cashew Sausages x 20kg
Italian Sun Dried Tomato Sausages x 20kg
Smoky Chipotle Sausages x 20kg
Ice cream 20kg
Chocolate 800 pieces

99% of this total food was served on the night (except for a few packets of the dips, since we ran out of veggie sticks to go with it).

It is impossible that anybody on the cruise got ‘no food’, with this quantity of food being evenly distributed around the boat by our team of six waiters, each designated to half a floor of the three levels of the boat. Despite words thrown around on social media such as ‘starving’ or ‘famished’, not a single guests reported to me that they receive zero food on the boat.

There was logistical challenges in regards to achieving even distribution of the food throughout the vessels three floors, and I apologise that unfortunately this caused some people to miss out on some of the dishes. We made every effort to distribute it evenly, with each of our six waiters designated to one half of one level of the three levels of the boat. Challenges arose because perhaps the food was not brought out fast enough at the beginning of the evening, and standing guests moved towards the food whereas the seated guests were waiting for it to be brought to them.

At our next event we plan to address these challenges by the following:
1. Ordering more food quantity in general
2. Having large amounts of food ready on tables before the guests board

Clarifying The Issues With The Drinks
I acknowledge that some people where sold a non-vegan drink at the event, and I’m very sorry that this occurred.

SVC is a 100% vegan organisation, an ethical vegan group and we have an abolitionist stance against the use of animals and animal products.  All food and drinks at our events are always intended to be vegan.

In regards to the drinks, in preparation to have a wonderful vegan bar at our Harbour Cruise Party event that everyone could enjoy, I spent three hours going through the 43 drinks that Captain Cook Cruises usually stocks on their boats, googling, searching etc and emailing companies to compile the resulting drinks list planned for the night.

I gave this list in PDF ready to print format to the cruise company with strict instructions to ONLY sell these drinks on the night, as well as to print them out and  have the lists avaible on the bar for everyone to read. They replied and said that they would do this. We also posted this list onto our event page for all guests to view.

When I boarded the boat on the event day I checked with the boat manager to see that the staff had been briefed in regards to the vegan drinks list. I discovered that the bar had not received the printouts, but had received the list within their general briefing for all bar staff, and that they were aware of which drinks were vegan and what they could and couldn’t sell. This list was then placed on the bar. I checked verbally with all bar staff that they had been briefed in this regard.

There was some confusion on the night regarding Tyrell’s red wines. As part of our planning for the event we contacted Tyrells’ to find out if any of their wines are vegan. We were informed by the winery Sales Coordinator of Tyrrell’s via email on 2nd Feb ’18 that their Moore’s Creek Shiraz is vegan, even though it is not labelled as such. For this reason we added it to the vegan drinks list. Although Tyrells’ have not yet updated their label for this wine, the wine is in fact vegan.

It was reported by a few guests that Captain Cook Cruises bar staff sold non vegan drinks on the night. This was completely against our clear instructions made to the company via email on 11th Jan ’18 (see attached). In this email we emphasis the importance that all drinks served are vegan.

If the drink that you purchased on the night was not ‘Tyrell’s shiraz’ and was not vegan, we suggest that you contact Captain Cook Cruises general manager – Anthony Haworth – via 8062 3663 or to request a refund for that drink.

Unfortunately I made one typo when preparing the vegan drinks list, and sorting out the non vegan from the vegan drinks. There was one drink – The Ninth Island Pinor Noir, that unfortunately ended up on the wrong (vegan) list. I’m aware of one guest who purchased this wine, and am extremely sorry that this ocurred.

Apart from this error, I feel that I did my absolute best to facilitate a 100% vegan bar at this event and that the cruise company is largely at fault for multiple non-vegan drinks purchases – for not following our clear instructions to not serve any non-vegan drinks, and making use of my list that I prepared. They did not follow my clear instructions and did not adequetly brief their staff prior to the event as I requested.

I have sent multiple emails and spoken over the phone with the general manager of Captain Cook Cruises, but they have refused to take any responsiblity for their inability to ensure a vegan bar.

At our next event I plan to ensure a properly and entirely vegan bar through the following steps:
1. Research and prepare the vegan drinks list, and double check it for errors
2. Double check that the cruise company is aware that NO non-vegan drinks are to be served on the night
3. Once boarding for event setup, brief the management and staff myself to further emphasise the importance of not serving non-vegan drinks.
4. Check the activities at the bar at verious times during the night, to ensure that our instructions are being followed.

A Learning Experience
As mentioned earlier in this post, I have a huge amount of events experience. Many vegan businesses in Sydney and Melbourne (Gigi Pizzeria, The Green Lion, Green Mushroom, East Sydney Hotel, The Snug) have hired me to organise their launch events, I’ve done the Sydney premiere of every new vegan film thats been created since 2012. (Cowspiracy, What The Health, Live & Let Live, The Ghosts In Our Machine). I’ve organised events that were near perfect, with smiles on everyones’ faces, lovely reviews on social media the following day and so much positivity and great promotion of the vegan lifestyle, inspiration sharing, community building and connection.

I am however, merely human. I’m liable to occasionally make mistakes, just like everyone else is.

The backlash on social media in relation to the errors made on the cruise party was astonishing and very upsetting. Its incredible to see how much exaggeration people can employ when expressing their grievances on social media and turning it into some kind of competitive sport, where everyone wants to say the most shocking or humerous description just to get ‘likes’, and how quickly some people – who I know have enjoyed some of our hundreds of successful events in the past – seem to quickly forget about these positive experiences and instead dwell on this one single negative one. It was sad to see how some newcomers to the community are unwilling to spend five minutes to be aware of the output of positive work I have contributed to the vegan movement in Sydney over the last five years, and instead make snap judgements about me due to a single event where a few mistake were made.

Some of you may have witnessed me in the 24 hours after the event react quite heatedly to some of a few posts and comments. I hope you can appreciate that I was completely overwhelmed with the level of anger and venom that I experienced, and found myself trying to defend my character and entire reputation, instead of explaining the simple honest errors I made in planning and running this one event. Under this barrage of irrational and at times defamatory criticism, one would have to have the patience of a zen monk to not be affected and become a little emotional and defensive. I hope those who know me to be a generally mild mannered person can forgive me this short period where I may have reacted.

My work over the last five years includes the following:
* Creating the first ever online vegan FB group community in sydney, which now has over 10,600 locals connected in a friendly constructive forum
* Organising, funding and hosting FORTY-FOUR x FREE 2.5 hour public vegan education events in Sydney featuring talk, vegan film and food tasting
* Giving 38 talks about vegan education around Australia
* Co-writing the Sydney Vegan Club 30 page 30 day Vegan challenge and leading a team which has mentored over two thousand new vegans through this challenge in sydney since it was launched in 2014
* Planning and hosting twelve New Vegan Support Meetings at Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre
* Holding over SEVEN HUNDRED ticketed vegan events in Sydney and Melbourne including cooking classes, nutrition seminars, food events and other social events
* Planning and hosting forty-one free public screenings of A Plastic Ocean film around Australia, showing this information to over 5,000 people.

I list these achievements not to brag or blow my own trumpet, but to remind long term members and educate new comers of the body of work that I and our team have achieved and built over the last five years, in the hopes that it is not overshadowed by a couple of blunders and one single recent event.

The anger, insults and negativity that I’ve witnessed on social media in relation to the errors at the event seem very disproportional to me and have been very upsetting, and caused me a lot of heartche and sleepless nights. Under the weight of this negativity I have considered ceasing running vegan events in Sydney, however when I’m reminded of the incredible positive effect of our many previous events, the huge community we have built, the programs and initiatives that we’ve created, and the (mostly) supportive and friendly community we’ve assembled, I’ve instead come up with the above offerings as way of compensation to our guests of this event, and resolved to learn from the experience moving forward, and come up with strategies to ‘get it right’ next time.

I also remind myself that (aside from the human health and environmental benefits), veganism is not about us. Its mostly about the animals – and the animals just need us to do something positive for them, and do it now!

I’m determined to make our next event (and all future events) positive and successful in every way, and use the experience of the february cruise event to ‘nail it’ next time.

I’m very pleased to have the support and understanding of our sponsors, who have agreed to continue to back us, and get behind our upcoming charity event. I’ll be working as a volunteer for this event, to plan, market and host our upcoming 21st April cruise party. I truly hope that everyone will get behind it and give me the opportunity to show that I can learn from my mistakes, and we can all be part of an event that will bring like minded people together for an enjoyable night of connection, promote the vegan lifestyle, and support these two wonderful charities – Peanuts Funny Farm and Where Pigs Fly Animal Sanctuaries.

In the meantime, since our february harbour cruise, I’ve not stopped with my normal hectic schedule of outreach, education and community support, by hosting two free vegan education events featuring ‘The Ghosts In Our Machine’, two free entry screenings of ‘A Plastic Ocean’, as well as a few other film events, running our facebook group and thirty day challenge, creating our newsletters and planning our many upcoming events and projects.

I hope that this post has helped clarify some of the concerns that some guests and members of our community have had, and helped people to realise that I had only the most positive intentions for this event and am willing to make up for my errors. I also hope everyone understands the huge commitment that I have for the Sydney vegan community and my passion for promoting kinder, greener, healthier choices in our city.

I hope to have the pleasure of your company at our upcoming charity cruise party event and/or some of our future events, and your involvement in our outreach and education initiatives.


Kym Staton
Founder, Sydney Vegan Club

As always, I welcome feedback and input so feel free to email me if you have any suggestions or thoughts on the issues at hand or our group in general, thanks.


Ask Jess: ‘How to Stay Positive While Surrounded With So Much Cruelty’

“People always say to look on the bright side. I’m a vegan because I know it makes a difference, but I still feel hopeless sometimes, like what’s the point? There are horrible things happening every day to people and animals and how can I turn a blind eye to that? It just depresses me.”

Jess Says:
It’s true that there are violent acts committed towards people and animals every day. You can choose to focus on the long history of cruelty shown to others and the possibility that it will continue forever into the future … Or, instead, you can shift your focus to something more empowering. For example, you might reflect on the positive difference you are already making, and ask questions such as, “What else can I do to bring about change?”

There’s evidence to suggest that people who feel hopeless or depressed have different thought patterns compared to people who describe themselves as hopeful and happy most of the time – and these thought patterns can be changed. Those who consider themselves depressed tend to think a lot about what’s wrong with the world, and what’s missing from their lives. On the other hand, people who generally enjoy a happier mood more often focus on what’s going right as well as what they are grateful for.

So, does this mean that we should always look on the bright side and ignore what’s wrong with the world? Not quite – denial is unlikely to help anyone! But if you’re struggling with a sense of hopelessness or depression and this is affecting your ability to make a positive impact, then it’s worthwhile taking a look at your own thoughts. With some effort, our habitual way of thinking can be changed so that we can stay as emotionally strong and healthy as possible, even while keeping our eyes open to what’s actually occurring around us.

There may have been countless times you’ve heard, “I could never give up meat. It’s too tasty!” or “Why do you bother? It’s not like you’re going to change the world”. You can focus on those occasions, or remind yourself instead that you are one of many people who are taking action to create a more compassionate world, and the number of people choosing to go vegetarian and vegan is growing every day.

It’s totally understandable that you would feel hopeless about how much unnecessary suffering there is all over the planet at the moment. However, while you can’t control everything around you, you are at least able to control your inner world and mental state to some extent. You can do this by consciously shifting the focus of your thoughts. Try as much as possible to pay attention to what is within your power to say or do, rather than concentrating on all the things you are powerless over.

Every time you catch yourself feeling hopeless, ask yourself what you were just thinking about. If your mental energy was focussed on what’s going wrong, what’s missing, or what you can’t control, try switching to another thought about what’s right, what you’re grateful for, and what you do have control over. If you continue to do this, you are likely to become a lot less hopeless over time and to feel in a better position to help in whatever way you can.

About Jess 
Jess is an intuitive counsellor who offers readings and consultations worldwide through With over 9 years’ previous experience as a psychologist, she has also helped people apply practical strategies to address anxiety, depression, trauma, and substance use. After being vegetarian for over 10 years she decided to go vegan in 2010, and now loves to support others in both enjoying and making the transition to a vegan lifestyle.



The potential to lapse and what you can do about it

By Jess Ang, 19th June 2017

The word ‘lapse’ is commonly used when a person falls back into any unwanted behaviour or experience such as depression, drug use, binge eating, or another habit. A lapse is different from a relapse because while a lapse is typically very short-lived, relapsing involves returning to previous levels or patterns of behaviour without any clear indication of wanting to stop.

For example, if you have one glass of wine after several weeks or months of deciding to quit drinking, and then commit to having no more alcohol afterwards, then this could be considered a lapse. But if you go back to previous levels of alcohol use, such as having a 6-pack of beer every day, then that would count as a relapse.According to the Australian Oxford Mini Dictionary, to ‘lapse’ means to ‘fail to maintain one’s position or standard’. Failure might seem like a harsh word to describe a temporary slip-up or mistake, but people often do beat themselves up when they have a lapse, especially when it comes to ethical issues and behaviours that they feel strongly about.The tricky thing about lapses is that there’s often a lot of shame and guilt associated with them, and ironically, this can actually increase the risk of people giving up on their resolve and choosing not to ‘get back on the bandwagon’, so to speak. Conversely, when someone is kind to themselves before, during, or after a lapse, then they are more likely to learn from the experience and stick to their goal or desired behaviour in future.

The potential to lapse

If you’re already vegan, it’s likely that the last thing you want to think about is the possibility of lapsing by non-vegan behaviour, such as by eating meat or dairy again. While of course there are some people who decide not to be vegan anymore after a certain period of time and are happy with that choice, for the purpose of this article the assumption is that you are vegan or are interested in becoming vegan, and would rather not use animal products again.

While it’s tempting to deny that there’s any possibility of having a lapse in future, the truth is that lapses happen, and it can be empowering to know that there are ways to plan in order to try and prevent them. Here are some questions you can ask to help you prepare for a potential lapse:

What could put me at risk of having a lapse?

Write down the places where you might be at a higher risk of lapsing. For example, at a work function BBQ, or during a social gathering at Yum Cha where the vegan meals are few and far between, or at a relative’s house where you will likely be offered the same chicken soup you used to eat all the time when you were little.

Think about what other situations or emotions could lead to a lapse. Are you more likely to grab a meal at a drive-thru when you’re tired and busy and have nothing in the fridge at home? (If there’s nothing vegan on that drive-thru menu and you’re starving, the chances of you having a lapse could skyrocket). What about after an argument? Or if you’re feeling down or nervous and you just want some comfort food like that favourite milk chocolate bar you used to have as a kid?

How could I prevent this situation, or is there somewhere I could go if I need to leave?

Note down in advance how you might be able to prevent a particular high-risk situation. If a social lunch is being planned, could you suggest meeting at a cafe or restaurant where there are plant-based options? If the venue is already set, is it possible to call the staff in advance to ask if there is anything vegan on the menu, or if any meal can be changed slightly to make it vegan? Maybe you could keep some ready-made vegan snacks or frozen meals at home so if you get home late feeling tired and hungry, you know you’ll still have something to eat. While it’s not particularly healthy, you could consider going out and splurging on some vegan sweet treats so that if you do get a craving for certain comfort/junk foods, you’ll have a vegan alternative there that’s already in your possession.

Work out if there are any places you could go while you’re feeling vulnerable and/or if you need to leave a particular situation – places where you know you’re unlikely to lapse. For example, it might feel best to go home if you live in a vegan household, or visit a supportive friend, or go to a plant-based restaurant, or anywhere you enjoy going and where you normally do other things as opposed to eating – such as at the beach or park where you can walk and relax.

How can I put off my decision?

If you find yourself reaching for some non-vegan food while still feeling that you would rather not lapse, then put off your decision to eat it. Wait at least 10 minutes. You may feel it’s easier to do this if you distract yourself during that time, such as by talking to others or doing something active. It often helps to remember previous occasions when you stayed strong in difficult situations. If you’ve done it once, you can do it again.

Write a list of coping strategies, especially ones that you can use in any situation that you won’t always be able to predict. Some examples would include calling a friend, becoming aware of your breathing and slowing it down if you’re feeling stressed, doing something you enjoy, etc.

What are my top reasons for being vegan?

After you’ve put off your decision for 10 minutes or so, connect with your most important reasons for being vegan, and then ask yourself if you still want to eat, drink, or otherwise use that non-vegan product. Your mind will probably be clearer just from waiting that short amount of time.

How can I celebrate?

Don’t forget to celebrate! It’s common for people to skip this step like it’s a sign of immaturity to reward yourself for handling a high-risk situation well, but it’s a really important step to take. Whenever you get through a high-risk situation and manage to stick to your decision to stay vegan, do something to celebrate. It can be as simple as taking out some time to read a bit of that novel you’ve been wanting to start, or schedule a massage, or just pat yourself on the back to acknowledge your efforts. It can help to ask what you’d say to someone else who had just been through a similar situation, e.g. “good job”, “that was tough but you’re getting better at this”, or “well done”.

Learning from lapses

If you’ve ever had a lapse and are still feeling really bad about it, remember to go easy on yourself. Again, being overly harsh on yourself can sometimes leave you more vulnerable to another lapse rather than keep you on track.

Where there’s shame, there’s a tendency to hide what’s happened, which can make it harder to get support or advice from others who may have some handy tips to share of their own about preventing such lapses in future. You certainly don’t need to broadcast the fact that you’ve had a lapse, especially if you believe that a particular person or group of people might judge you or make you feel worse if you share that you’ve had one. In many cases though, there’s a good chance that several of the people who you fear will judge you for having a lapse have actually had their fair share of lapses in their own life.

If you’ve had a lapse, it does not mean you are no longer capable of sticking to your values. Lapses can be learned from. A couple of great questions to ask straight away include: “What led to that lapse?” and “What will I do differently next time?”

The more you prepare for a lapse, manage high-risk situations well and celebrate your successes, the more confident you will be about your ability to prevent lapses from occurring. Just as importantly, your experiences and lessons may serve to help other aspiring vegans to deal with concerns about lapsing, to avoid becoming discouraged, and to stay committed to a vegan lifestyle in future.

About Jess:
Jess Ang photo Jess is an intuitive counsellor who offers readings and consultations worldwide through
With over 9 years’ previous experience as a psychologist, she has also helped people apply practical strategies to
address anxiety, depression, trauma, and substance use. After being vegetarian for over 10 years she decided to
go vegan in 2010, and now loves to support others in both enjoying and making the transition to a vegan lifestyle.


Govinda Valley: A Place For Optimal Healing and Growth

By Kym Staton
10th Dec, 2016

After descending into a hidden valley, crossing a smooth flowing river and climbing a staircase between lush green trees, I eventually found myself in the gardens of Govinda Valley, with a water drop shaped wind chime resonating in the light breeze that flowed gently between the trees. I’d only been here three minutes and already felt a palpable sense of quietude and calmness. I was greeted with a beaming smile by a lady who introduced herself as Aki, who invited me up to the dining room and offered me tea.

Ghandi said: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’. The sanskrit word ‘Seva’ means a service which is performed without any expectation of result or award for performing it. Such services can be performed to benefit other human beings or society. When the Govinda Valley Retreat Centre was established in 2006 the essential vision was to serve. To provide a peaceful, nurturing and nourishing facility to all, regardless of their chosen path of spiritual practice, and a comfortable environment for people of Sydney and beyond to conduct retreats, seminars and conferences. The retreat has hosted hundreds of vibrant and successful groups and events in that time, and established a solid reputation for delicious healthy food, refreshingly helpful and personalised service, excellent facilities and a unique location offering access to ocean and bush.

I was soon greeted by the cheerful and warm Radha – the retreats’ bookings manager – who guided me through the facilities and grounds. The setting of this wonderful establishment is nothing short of sublime. Nestled in a peaceful valley between majestic mountains and amongst the pristine wilderness of Otford Valley, its bordered by a flowing creek and the beautiful Royal National Park and south pacific ocean lies beyond its eastern mountain. The property is surrounded and embraced by nature.

The location is very practical, just one hour from Sydneys’ CBD or thirty minutes from wollongong by car, and only five minutes walk from Otford train station. There are a myriad of gorgeous spots to explore in the local area, such as the dazzling Bald Hill lookout, and popular surf beach Stanwell Park just a few minutes away by car.

Heading into the building, I was blown-away by the vibe of their event spaces, which comprise of a large ground-floor 135m2 hall (which can fit up to 250 seated guests or 75 yoga mats), a smaller 65m2 hall (sixty seats or 20 yoga mats). These spaces are really gorgeous and inviting, bright, airy and naturally lit with big windows and leafy views. There is a large dining hall that seats 72 people inside and thirty on the balcony. There is also a therapy room which is ideal for one-to-one consultations and treatments such as massage or counselling.

6-main-hallthe main hall, GV’s largest space

It was glorious to stroll through the grounds and check out the facilities, down pathways lined with gumtrees and resplendent with bottle brush flowers in full bloom. The expansive thirty acre property has a volleyball court, half basketball court, bonfire areas, verandas with seating and spacious grassy areas that are great for meditation or outdoor activities. It even has an outdoor wood-fire pizza oven – nothing like the taste of fresh crispy pizza!


Radha showed me the range of accommodation options which include six twin-share ensuites and ten quad-share dorm rooms. The total combined total accommodation capacity of the centre is fifty people, plus there is space for campers and an additional option to allow more people to attend events. If a retreat planner attracts forty or more people they can have exclusive use of the property.


The team are clearly experts at hosting retreats and providing personalised services to meet the needs of yoga practitioners, speakers and event planners to plan and run their dream retreat. Their team of enthusiastic volunteers and staff will take care of all the cooking leaving the practitioner to do what they do best. The support for your event can be as little as accommodation and meals, or as much as arranging practitioners to enhance your events where Govinda Valley’s team can book in a therapists or teachers from their extensive local contacts which allows you to add things like massage, yoga, meditation or cooking lessons to your retreat program.

As we concluded the tour, although I’d only been at the centre for an hour, I noticed the Otford Valley – with its nest-like setting amongst hills and mountains had a unique, calming and comforting effect on me. As if reading my mind, a short time later Radha explained that traditionally the Otford Valley area was used as a birthing and healing centre by the Aboriginal natives. I was also told that the centre often gets visited by deer, parrots, kookaburra and kangaroos. Perhaps its the frequent sounds of joyful kirtans, mantra chanting or drumming that attracts them.. or the fact that only vegetarian food is served at the centre, making it seem like an inherently safe place to visit..

I enjoyed my visit and tour and can conclude that GV is truly a magical place. Its a place where spirituality, physical fitness, learning, networking and personal growth is supported by a special peace and serenity. Its a place to reconnect to the nature and life within you and around your. A place to find peace of mind, contentment and discover inner wellness. The volunteers and staff who run this wonderful facility are very evidently putting the art of seva into practice on a daily basis through their passion and commitment, and are working hard to make Govinda Valley Retreat Centre a joyful and spirited place of heart and kindness, and a hub of healing and growth!

the nearby Kelly’s Falls, Garrawarra State Conservation Area

Check out this promo video tour!


I think I’ll have to get new friends

By Vegan Naturopath Robyn Chuter.

That’s what one of my clients, whom I’ll call Helen, said to me recently, only half-jokingly. We had been discussing the dietary changes that she needs to make in order to overcome an aggressive autoimmune disease. One of the major barriers to change that Helen keeps bumping up against is that her social life revolves around various forms of not-so-healthy eating – meeting up with friends at a restaurant, going out for a pub meal with her husband and so on.

Can you relate? I sure can. When I first decided to become vegetarian, at the age of 15, I suddenly realised how many food-centric activities that I’d previously enjoyed with my friends were now off the menu – quite literally. No more McDonald’s after the movies. No hot dogs at the roller skating rink (yep, I’m that old ;-)). Even sausage sizzles at school resulted in me feeling uncomfortably excluded from the social rituals which function as the glue that binds groups of unrelated humans together, providing us with a feeling of community that’s essential to both our psychological and physical well-being.

Most of my clients who’ve adopted vegetarian or vegan diets report the same kinds of experiences: work functions in which their dietary preferences aren’t catered for, despite having given a ‘heads-up’ to management; friends who choose restaurants for get-togethers that have absolutely nothing on the menu that’s suitable for non-carnivores; and of course, the dreaded family Christmas dinner, in which ‘tradition’ dictates that there’s a dead representative of virtually every species of animal on the table, like some dystopian version of Noah’s Ark.

The social isolation that many people experience when they decide to eat in a non-typical way – whether that’s becoming an ethical vegan, or a health-conscious plant-based eater – can be so intense and demoralising that they end up reverting to their old way of eating. In fact, a survey of over 11 000 Americans found that a startling 84% of vegetarians and vegans end up abandoning their diet, and that “insufficient interaction with other vegetarians/vegans; not being actively involved in a vegetarian/vegan community” and “disliking that their diet made them ‘stick out from the crowd’” were among the most common reasons for reverting to the dietary norm.

I’ve developed a keen interest in the role that social support plays in helping people stick with a healthy plant-based diet, so much so that I’m writing my Honours thesis on this very topic. I’m in the very earliest stages of my social support research project right now, but what I can share with you at this point is that social support matters. A lot. In fact, for Australian men, the number of vegetarian friends that they had was found to be the strongest predictor of how much meat they themselves eat.

Importantly, online communities such as Facebook groups are just as helpful at providing social support as more traditional in-person social groups. (Hint: my research project involves a closed Facebook group which was set up to provide support for people who want to eat a plant-based diet.)

So neither Helen nor anyone else needs to dump their old friends in order to stick to a healthy diet. She (and you) just need extra friends who share your commitment, whom you can connect with online, in person, or both.

By the way, that’s the reason I include a Facebook group (whose privacy setting is Secret, so none of your other FB friends can see you’re in it – a concern expressed by many of my clients, who get ‘stalked’ on social media by family members or friends who disapprove of their dietary choices; I kid you not, this actually happens!!!!!) in my health and nutrition education program, EmpowerEd. It’s just so incredibly helpful to be part of a supportive community of people who share your perspective on diet and health, empathise with your struggles and celebrate your successes with you.


Refusal Skills When Offered Non-Vegan Food

by Jess Ang

A lot of us find it really tough to say “no”, and if we do manage to say it, we sometimes feel ridiculously guilty. We are social creatures and the potential to upset others or face disapproval from those we care about (or even from people who we don’t know very well) can lead us to accept things we would have preferred to decline.

As most people in our society are not vegan, it’s very normal to be offered non-vegan food, particularly if you’ve just started trying out a vegan lifestyle or if you haven’t told many people about it. Before we go into tips about how to effectively say “no” to others, it’s worth considering the need to say “no” to ourselves first.

Learning To Say “No” To Yourself

I remember hearing my mum talk about how horrified she was after being told by a friend that he loved the smell of barbecued cockroaches, as they were considered a delicacy in his culture. I have no doubt that Mum wouldn’t have needed any assertiveness training or additional skills to decline such a “delicacy” if it had been offered to her. It’s when things are still tempting to us that there’s a risk of not being able to refuse them properly.

When I chose to go vegan, I noticed it wasn’t easy at the start to say “no” to foods that I was used to eating and enjoyed the taste of (e.g. cheesy pizza, ice cream). At that time though, saying “no” to meat was not at all challenging like it was when I first gave it up. My ability to refuse meat was strengthened by the fact that I had no desire for it anymore, so I didn’t have to worry about my own temptation leading me astray!

So how can we learn to “no” to ourselves? One way is to write down every single thought that might lead you to accept a non-vegan offering, even after deciding in advance that you don’t want to.

Just for fun, you can try visualising a little cartoon angel on one shoulder and a little cartoon devil on the other shoulder. You’ve probably seen this kind of thing in children’s movies when the main character was experiencing some sort of inner conflict or trying to make a decision. The angel will whisper in your ear (just like your conscience, or Jiminy Cricket if you’ve seen the Disney cartoon Pinocchio) to encourage you to make a “good” choice, while the little devil will want to push you over the edge and give in to temptation. One example of the angel/devil dialogue that a lot of people can relate to could go something like this:

• Little devil: “Go on, sleep in a little longer, you can go the gym another day, or later tonight”.
• Little angel: “You know how hard it is to exercise unless it’s first thing in the morning. You’ve felt so good this week since starting your health kick.”
• Little devil: “Exactly! You’ve done so well, you deserve a break. Just start again tomorrow …”

For every thought that could lead you to say “yes” to non-vegan offers when you would actually prefer to say “no”, come up with a new thought that will allow you to stay strong at times when your willpower is tested. Remember why you decided to go vegan in the first place, whether it was due to feeling compassionate towards animals, caring about the environment, wanting to improve your health, or for any other number of reasons.

Saying “No” To Others

Expressing Gratitude & Letting People Know You’re Vegan:
Offering food can be an expression of love, caring and social bonding, so it’s normally worthwhile to express your gratitude when people offer you food, even if you aren’t going to eat it: “Thanks so much – I don’t actually eat cheese because I’m vegan, but I really appreciate you offering me some”. Better yet, let people know in advance that you’re vegan so they’re much less likely to offer you non-vegan food. Sometimes well-meaning people will forget, or won’t be sure what vegan means.

There’s often an assumption that you have to act a little aggressively when refusing something, or at least offend people in the process, but that isn’t true. Remember that although you can’t control how someone else will act, you can always make sure that you respond in a way that is polite, respectful, and acknowledges the effort another person may have gone to when preparing or buying food for you.

Give Clear Messages – Verbal & Non-verbal:
If you’re sure that you want to refuse something, then communicate that to the other person both verbally and non-verbally. Maintain eye-contact, don’t slouch, and speak clearly. People often send a reinforced message by the tone of their voice, indicating that their word is final and not up for debate. You don’t have to narrow your eyes and hiss through clenched teeth, but avoid showing weakness in your resolve with indistinct mumbling or trailing off in uncertainty, which can give mixed messages.

Answer Quickly Without Long Excuses:
Hesitation increases the risk of being undermined by your own doubts, and gives off the impression that you’re not sure what you want to say. Say “no” straight away and, if you must, give a short reason why. Offering multiple explanations or long excuses can make you sound confused (or even boring), and it gives the other person more material to argue or challenge you on. Give a quick, clear response and avoid leaving the door open for future offers by saying things like “maybe later on”, “not right now” or “let me think about it.”

No Means No:
If others are persistent and continue to pressure you to eat meat or other non-vegan food, you can repeat your answer as many times as it takes for the other person to get the message. Again, there’s no need to resort to aggression. Sound like a broken record if you must, but keep repeating “no thanks” until the other person understands that you’re not going to change your mind. If it gets to the point where you are sick of repeating yourself, then you can politely ask the other person to stop offering: “Thanks, but I’d rather not be asked about it anymore”.

Remembering It’s Ok To Say “No”:
If you ever feel guilty about saying “no” to non-vegan food, then remind yourself of your values, how important veganism may be to you, and always be gentle on yourself. It’s useful to imagine if your roles were reversed and consider, ‘If I asked this person to eat something they didn’t want to, would they do it? Would I want them to feel pressured and uncomfortable? And if not, why should I feel guilty about saying “no”?’

Practice Makes Perfect

Practicing saying “no” with a close friend or in front of a mirror might seem silly. However, it’s much better to feel sheepish in an environment under your control rather than feel intensely uncomfortable or end up compromising your values in a real-life social situation that you could have dealt with better, had you practiced. Every relationship is unique, so make a list of all the people who are most likely to offer you non-vegan food, and what you could specifically say to them in order to firmly but respectfully say “no”.

It’s not enough to just write this down. Practice until it feels natural, and you are confident about your ability to decline non-vegan food in any situation. Eventually you will find that refusing non-vegan food is as easy as saying “no” to a plate of barbecued cockroaches!

About Jess:
Jess Ang photo  Jess Ang has enjoyed a vegan lifestyle since January 2010, shortly after surviving a 30-day vegan challenge!
Jess is an intuitive counsellor with over 8 years’ experience as a registered forensic psychologist. She offers
intuitive readings worldwide through, as well as programs to help people change their
alcohol use.


Using Your Unique Strengths For Vegan Advocacy

By Jess Ang
published mon 11th April 2016

If it weren’t for a couple of very outspoken vegetarians who I crossed paths with in my teenage years, I’m not sure that I would have ever questioned my habit of eating meat on a regular basis back in the 1990s. My decision to explore a plant-based diet was also influenced by a lady I met at an aikido class, who patiently answered several questions I had after finding out she was vegan.

Although I understood how eye-opening and helpful it was to hear the reasons why various people gave up eating animal products, I admit that I’ve had a tendency to struggle to find the right words myself when asked to explain why I’m vegan. I’ve felt a mixture of things when hearing others speak honestly and shamelessly about veganism, including admiration, curiosity and even slight horror when such conversations turned into conflict and arguments! I’ve wondered how these people were able to articulate their opinions so well and to stay calm even when their lifestyle or views were being verbally attacked.

There have been several occasions when I’ve felt bad for staying quiet when I could have spoken up, like when hearing things such as, “well you know fish don’t feel pain, right?” or “I imagine dairy cows quite enjoy being milked”. Even when I’ve made an effort to remember certain facts or statistics so that I could share relevant knowledge when needed, my mind would often go blank whenever an opportunity came up to talk about what I’d learnt.

Accepting What You’re Not-So-Good At

Despite being able to speak more openly about veganism over time, I’ve come to accept that this is definitely not one of my strengths. I’ve also noticed that when friends or family members either adopted a vegan diet or cut down on meat, it was certainly never due to a lengthy conversation or debate we’d had on the subject. More often than not it was due to a book, website, or DVD that had been shared.

Accepting what you’re not-so-good at can allow you to save time and energy that might otherwise be wasted. For example, being a fantastic cook and creating yummy dishes is an effective way to show that vegan food can be delicious. But what if you’ve tried in vain to master this skill in the past, and you still either don’t enjoy cooking or find it to be a constant challenge to prepare edible meals even when following recipes that the average person might consider simple? If you accept that cooking is not your forte, you might consider buying some store-bought treats to share at social events instead, or asking a friend who’s great in the kitchen to assist you. It may not be as impressive as if you had prepared the food yourself, but it can save time and take the stress off while still achieving the goal of sharing tasty vegan food.

The more you shift your focus away from your weaknesses, the more you can concentrate on using and building on your strengths.

Knowing Your Strengths

A couple of years ago I read a book by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton titled ‘Now, Discover Your Strengths’. It got me thinking about the importance of focussing on our strengths as much as – if not more than – our weaknesses, because:

‘… to avoid your strengths and to focus on your weaknesses isn’t a sign of diligent humility. It is almost irresponsible. By contrast the most responsible, the most challenging, and, in the sense of being true to yourself, the most honorable thing to do is face up to the strength potential inherent in your talents and then find ways to realize it.’ (page 126). 

The authors explain that the most successful people in all sorts of occupations and walks of life tend to make use of their strengths every day, and to manage around their weaknesses rather than focus all their energy on them.

Funnily enough, many people are unaware of what their strengths actually are because they seem so natural, which can lead to the assumption that everyone can easily do those things as well.

If you’re not sure what your strengths are, you can ask yourself some questions such as:

  • “What activities or tasks are almost effortless for me?”
  • “What can I spend hours doing and not feel bored or tired afterwards?”
  • “What are some skills that I was able to learn very quickly, or to excel at without that much practice?”

All Strengths Are Good

When it comes to strengths, there’s no such thing as right or wrong. For example, the strength of discipline is not superior to the strength of empathy, nor is the drive to achieve better or worse than the strengths of analytical ability, focus or connectedness. No matter what your strengths are, they can come in handy in any area of life, and vegan advocacy is no exception.

Looking back, I realise that it wasn’t just the outspoken vegetarians who led me to explore a vegetarian lifestyle. Those conversations may have planted the seed, but it was also through reading books about healthy diets, non-violence, and vegetarianism that I felt motivated to give up meat. The authors of those books may or may not have been outspoken in their everyday life, but their strengths in other ways were clear in terms of written communication, ability to summarise research, or creative expression of their ideas.

Later on while completing a 30 day vegan challenge organised by Animal Liberation Victoria, I got to read about other people who were vegan, all with different personalities, strengths, and their own unique way of inspiring people to go vegan.

What Are You Awesome At?

What are your strengths, and how can you use them to be a role-model for other aspiring vegans?

Maybe your biggest strength is literally strength – i.e. being physically strong and fit. How you move and your body itself can be an amazing promotion for a vegan lifestyle.

If you know that you’re emotionally resilient and your strength is remaining calm in tough situations, maybe you’re well-suited to rescue work or undercover investigations.

If people often comment on your warmth, compassion and ability to make others feel comfortable around you, you may be drawn to supporting others and listening to their concerns about animal cruelty or the potential challenges of going vegan.

If you find it really rewarding to help people achieve their potential, you could make a wonderful coach or vegan mentor.

If you’re a fun-loving person, you may be able to positively influence people through your laughter and cheerfulness – others will want to be more like you!

If you’re passionate about fashion, beauty and make-up, you may have people admiring the way you look and wanting to know more about the vegan clothing and cruelty-free cosmetics you wear.

If you just love being around animals, don’t mind hard work outdoors, and have enough persistence, determination, and motivation, you could be one of the best people out there to run an animal sanctuary.

If you’re a bookworm, you might like to explore the available literature on veganism, to let others know what you’ve read about, and to even write about certain issues yourself if you are a talented writer as well.

If you enjoy film*, whether by simply watching or actually being involved in the production of it, then it’s good to remember how effective film (and documentaries in particular) can be to inspire others to try a vegan lifestyle. In fact, many strengths come into play when making a film – not only the camera skills and talents required for animation or visual effects, but also sound recording, acting if there are actors involved, musical ability, and the knowledge of experts who may be interviewed.

And if you do happen to be a naturally outspoken vegan advocate who thrives when engaged in conversations, debates or public speaking – don’t take that for granted! The clear and open way that you verbally express yourself is by no means easy for everyone else.

Be Your Extraordinary Self

The point is that you don’t need to change your personality or to feel bad about anything that you’re not naturally good at. Know your strengths and make use of those talents that you already have.

As written in Now, Discover Your Strengths (page 130):

‘The old maxim says that you can’t see the picture when you are inside the frame. Well, you spend your whole life inside the frame of your strengths, so perhaps it is little wonder that after a while you become blind to them … your instinctive reactions to the world around you – those things that “you can’t help but…” – are not mundane, commonplace, obvious. On the contrary, your instinctive reactions are unique. They make you different from everyone else. They make you extraordinary.’ 

Using your strengths will not only allow you to be a more effective vegan advocate if that’s what you want, but also to make any area of your life easier and to be true to your ‘extraordinary’ self.


You can easily access great films on veganism through streaming or purchasing them online or on netflix / quickflix. If you’re interested, there’s a list of recommended films on the Sydney Vegan Club website:

About Jess:
Jess Ang photo  Jess Ang has enjoyed a vegan lifestyle since January 2010, shortly after surviving a 30-day vegan challenge!
Jess is an intuitive counsellor with over 8 years’ experience as a registered forensic psychologist. She offers
intuitive readings worldwide through, as well as programs to help people change their
alcohol use.


Vegan Lollies You Can Buy In Australia

You can help us keep it up to date!
If you have any additions or corrections please contact us

Jila Chewing gum Mint and Spearmint
Jila Sugar free mints (tin) Peppermint & Spearmint
Chupa Chups Cola
Chup Chups orange
Coles Choc mint crunch
Coles brand Lemon Sherbets
Extra Chewing gum
Mentos Mini
Mentos Fruit
Mentos Spearmint
Mentos Pineapple
Pez Candy
Skittles Fruit
Tic Tacs original flavour
Wizz Fizz original

Sour Patch Kids
Woolworths Homebrand Black jelly beans
Homebrand Fruit flavoured sweets
Homebrand Barley sugar
Homebrand Aniseed humbugs
Life Savers 5 flavours
Life savers Strawberry sundae
Life Savers Peppermint
Life Savers Musk

Flirt Blitz Mints (tin) Peppermint, Spearmint
Dominion Naturals Sour stilts @Aldi
Flirt Chewing gum
Black & Gold Spearmints,
Black & Gold Milk bottles
The Jolly Lollie Company Liquorice Allsorts
Bols Lemon sherbets
Bols Fruity Sherbet bombs
Bols Hard Jubes
Bols Raspberries
Walker’s After dinner mints
Walker’s Sugared almonds
Ekologist Godis Frukt
Fino Berry Flavoured Jells
Fishermen’s Friends Mint
Go Natural Licorice
Green Grove Organics Licorice
Macro Organic Liquorice
Mike & Jack X-treme sour straps
Morish Peanut Brittle
Darrell Lea Rasberry Licorice Stix
~You can help us keep it up to date! If you have any additions or corrections please contact us