Latest news | 27 Feb 2023

Critical need for more services to support people with eating disorders


Butterfly Foundation and Butterfly Residential Care, trading as Wandi Nerida – Australia’s first and only residential recovery centre for people affected by an eating disorder, support the need for greater funding of eating disorder services as highlighted on ABC’s Four Corners program (27 February 2023).

Since opening in June 2021, there have been 81 participants access the facility to date. Wandi Nerida has been supported by the Federal and NSW governments which, along with the Butterfly bursary program, has helped provide access to 70 of these who otherwise may not be able to afford residential treatment. There are approximately 50 participants on the waiting list for Wandi Nerida, with an average wait time of 120 days.

Like other eating disorder programs across the country, Wandi Nerida is continuing to explore various funding options to be able to continue delivering our residential services on behalf of the community for the long term. This includes ongoing discussions with both the Queensland and Federal governments.

There has been a significant increase in presentations of eating disorders during and since COVID-19, and this is expected to continue. Body image concerns, depression, anxiety and eating disorder symptoms increased by more than 50% during the pandemic[1]. On average, recovery takes between one to six years, while up to 25% of people will experience a severe and long-term illness.


For media enquiries or more information, contact:

Melissa Wilton, Butterfly Foundation,  0402 259 652 or

Jim Stiliadis, Six O’Clock Advisory, 0414 534 703 or

Editor and producers note: Please include the following support line details in all media coverage of this story and refer to the Mindframe Media guidelines for safe reporting on eating disorders. Please include the following helpline message.

Help and Support

Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact:

  • Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE) or
  • Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline on 1300 550 23
  • For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14


Wandi Nerida

Butterfly Residential Care, trading as Wandi Nerida, is Australia’s first residential recovery centre for people affected by an eating disorder. It provides a safe, nurturing and healing environment for those most in need, delivering concentrated, person-centred treatment. Wandi Nerida provides a bridge between hospital admission and outpatient care to provide an opportunity for a more intensive psychological recovery, finding the ‘healthy self’ amidst the eating disorder.

Since opening in June 2021, 81 participants have been through the Wandi Nerida program to help make their recovery a reality.

Waiting lists

There are currently approximately 50 participants on the waiting list for Wandi Nerida. The average wait time is around 120 days.

How much does treatment at Wandi Nerida cost?

Treatment at Wandi Nerida will vary in cost depending on the participant’s length of stay, individual needs, and recovery goals. On average, most participants stay at least 60 days, which costs approximately $90,000. To date some of this cost has been covered by private health insurers, government funds and philanthropy.


Thanks to generous corporate and personal donors, Wandi Nerida has a Bursary Committee that meets regularly to assess Bursary applications. If potential participants need financial assistance, they apply prior to admission. Over 86% of participants have accessed a bursary.

Funding – past, existing and planned

To date the Commonwealth Government has contributed $7.25 million towards the construction ($2m), service establishment ($1.5m) and operation ($3.75m) of Wandi Nerida. Butterfly Foundation Board members have personally committed to contributing $3.5 million, with additional contributions from other corporate partners and philanthropists.

The NSW Government  brokered beds to the cost of $974,000 to cover the cost of NSW participants to attend Wandi Nerida. This funding is now exhausted.

At this stage there is no additional State or Federal funding available to Wandi Nerida. Butterfly is engaging with the Federal and QLD governments about future funding possibilities. Ongoing support of public and private donors is integral to ensuring the facility can help as many Australians as possible.

Model of treatment

As Australia’s only specialist residential eating disorder recovery centre, Wandi Nerida uses the Butterfly Foundation Residential Eating Disorders Treatment (B-FREEDT) Model of Care©.

The B-FREEDT Model of Care© is based on the work of Carolyn Costin’s successful residential facilities in the United States, but is contextualised to the Australian environment. The recovery-focused model involves different phases of treatment tailored to a person’s needs and uses the power of lived experience in the recovery journey of each participant.

Wandi Nerida addresses not only symptoms and behaviours but also underlying psychological factors. The home-like centre set in beautiful bushland is critical to the success of the treatment – a space where people with eating disorders can connect with nature and work towards health and wellness. It follows a set of general principles of treatment for eating disorders that are universally accepted in contemporary best practice clinical care. Multi-disciplinary treatment plans are collaboratively designed with each participant to meet their unique needs which are informed by an ongoing process of comprehensive multidisciplinary assessment.

Integral to the treatment offering is the use of the lived experience workforce, with 40% of staff having a lived experience of an eating disorder or caring for someone who has. Wandi Nerida’s recovery navigators are instrumental in providing the message of hope to participants.

This model, unique to Australia, aims to deliver ‘proof of concept’ for all other states and territories. Robust clinical and economic evaluation is being undertaken by independent Western Sydney University and Monash University.

Butterfly Foundation Priorities

Establish a national inquiry into body image:

The Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image was established more than 12 years ago after the formation of the National Advisory Group on Body Image in 2009. Since then, significant social and technological developments mean the Code is outdated. Given the rapid evolution and adoption of social media, we urgently need an inquiry that considers current evidence, and the impact social media, traditional media and technology have on body image and body satisfaction.

Invest in prevention

Body dissatisfaction often begins early in life – in children as young as 5. The trajectory towards the development of body image issues and eating disorders can be disrupted by addressing modifiable risk and protective factors within school, community, and home settings. Butterfly is the only organisation providing national prevention programs, and urgently needs funding to provide evidence-based programs to more schools across Australia.

Reduce stigma and increase help-seeking

Stigma and shame are the most frequently identified barriers to help-seeking among people with eating disorders. Eating disorder stigma requires a targeted communications approach to make an impact. Greater help-seeking, particularly at earlier stages of the illness, offers the best chance for full recovery. Butterfly is uniquely-placed to continue to drive innovative campaigns and messaging to help to break down stigma and smash eating disorder myths, building on highly successful campaigns that include Body Kind, An ED Looks Like Me, Change the Picture, and EveryBODY is Deadly.

Service development

Support innovation by trialling, evaluating, and implementing new forms of treatment to address gaps in the system of care. The success of Wandi Nerida, as well as the state and territory facilities currently being developed, will depend on the step-down care available for participants after their stay. We need options to support participants coming out of residential facilities, so they can maintain their recovery safely from home, wherever that might be. We also need continued funding for Wandi Nerida to deliver this unique model of care and complete critical independent evaluations.

Butterfly’s prevention programs

Butterfly Prevention services

  • There was a 394% increase in school/community sessions in Term 4 2022 compared with Term 4 2019.
  • From 2021-22, we reached over 268,000 young people through our Prevention services for schools and communities.

Butterfly delivers Australia’s only national prevention and early intervention programs across school and community settings to support positive body image and limit the development of eating disorders in children and young people – those who are most at risk of onset. In operation since 2006, Butterfly’s Prevention Services team has reached an estimated 1.7 million beneficiaries across schools, sporting groups, other professionals working with children and young people, parents/carers and workplaces.

Butterfly Body Bright

Butterfly Body Bright is Australia’s first whole of primary school body image program. Designed by body image and education experts, Body Bright is a strength-based, prevention focused program that supports the development of healthy and positive attitudes and behaviours towards the body, eating and physical activity in primary-school-aged children.

The program is divided into six key themes; Brave, Resilient, Inclusive, Grateful, Happy and Thoughtful, that address the significant modifiable risk and protective factors that underpin body image in children. The program includes online staff training, curriculum-aligned lesson plans, resources for families and school culture and environment guidelines based on these themes, ensuring the whole school community is supported.

All Australian primary schools are encouraged to register before August 2023 for three years’ free access to the program.

Impact of Butterfly Body Bright

Butterfly Body Bright, underwent a pilot evaluation before being made available to schools across Australia (Butterfly Foundation & La Trobe University’s EMBodIED Research Team, 2021). The evaluation found statistically significant improvements from immediately before to after a lesson, in: body image; body appreciation (boys showed greater improvement); confidence to deal with appearance-teasing (boys showed greater improvement); and seeking help/support if they were having a hard time (Year 6 students showed greater improvement).

Students who received the lesson also reported the greatest intention to avoid comparing their appearance to other people. To date, our ongoing Body Bright Staff Training Feedback Survey has found that 92 per cent of participating school staff either strongly agreed or mostly agreed that the online training filled an important gap in their professional development, with 97 per cent strongly/mostly agreeing that the whole school approach of Butterfly Body Bright will have a positive impact on the body image of students. 89 per cent of school staff said the training has impacted the extent to which they will role model positive body image in front of their students, and 80 per cent said the training has impacted the extent to which they will avoid talking about bodily appearance in a negative way in front of their students.

Butterfly’s advocacy

A key focus of Butterfly’s is advocating for improvements to the system of care, breaking down stereotypes, combating prevailing stigma and encouraging help-seeking for people impacted by eating disorders and body image concerns.

Successful advocacy campaigns have included #EveryBODYWelcome, encouraging help-seeking for eating disorders and body image concerns with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, Talking Helps campaign designed to spread awareness about marginalised groups with eating disorders (males, LGBTQIA+ individuals, people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities, and people in larger bodies), Change The Picture, focused on body dissatisfaction in young people, and #AnEDLooksLikeMe, highlighting eating disorders don’t discriminate and can affect anyone, of any age, gender, body size, ethnicity and sexuality.

Work with social media platforms

Butterfly has developed partnerships with social media organisations to help create safer online environments for those at risk of developing body image concerns and eating disorders. This includes an ongoing partnership with Meta Australia (Instagram and Facebook), collaborating on advocacy campaigns such as #OwnYourFeed (2018), #TheWholeMe (2019), #BodyKindOnline (2021) and #BodyPride (2022) that promoted social media literacy skills to protect body image and mental health while online.

Butterfly also provides feedback and advice to mitigate the potential harm on these platforms. Butterfly successfully advocated for the removal of certain pro-eating disorder hashtags from Instagram and Facebook, with the users who search these terms instead prompted to access Butterfly’s Helpline and other support resources.

Butterfly National Helpline

  • Over the past 5 years, contacts to Butterfly’s Helpline have increased by 263%.
  • There was a 63% increase in the volume of total contacts to Butterfly’s National Helpline during the pandemic (2020), compared with the year prior to the onset of the pandemic (2019). Cases have been more complex with more carers reaching out for support – likely because they were able to notice behaviours and warning signs in their children more easily during lockdown.
  • 24,572 contacts over FY21-22 – a 133% increase on pre COVID-19 numbers (FY17/18).
  • Contacts to the Helpline have been more complex, and generally longer in duration, with a particular increase in webchat contacts.