A group with links to the Church of Scientology is targeting Australian kindergartens, claiming that new health checks will put children at risk from psychotropic drugs.
The federal government is expanding its health checks program, performed by GPs, which ensures children are ready for school by assessing their development. But the group, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, said these checks could lead to drugs being prescribed.
The group warns that common drugs used for hyperactivity, anxiety and depression could have the side-effects of hallucinations, weight loss, stunted growth and heart problems.
Letters have been sent to the directors of kindergartens across the country in the past year. Fine print beneath the group's name reads: ''Established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights.''
Some kindergartens have reportedly shared the DVD and information with parents, but the director of J.J. McMahon Memorial Kindergarten in Kew, Melbourne, said the campaign preyed on people's greatest vulnerability: concern for their children.
Catherine Waters, who received the letter last week, said she saw it ''as further deceit on behalf of this cult to gain influence in society''.
''I am really concerned that this information has been sent out, particularly to an under-resourced and unsupported industry,'' Mrs Waters said.
A spokesman for federal Mental Health Minster Mark Butler said much of the material was wrong.
The Medicare-funded Healthy Kids Check began in July 2008.
''It is not mandatory and it is not a mental health check,'' the spokesman said. ''The reason we went through an exhaustive consultation process was to make sure the way the check is implemented does not lead to the medicalisation of children's behaviour.''
The founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, theorised the mind resided not only in the brain but also in someone's spirit.
Shelley Wilkins, executive director of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights in Australia, said it was a non-profit organisation staffed entirely by volunteers - not all of whom were Scientologists - and headquartered in Los Angeles.
''I don't work for the church,'' said Ms Wilkins, who is a member of the Church of Scientology.
The aim of sending the material was ''just to inform everybody and let them know what's going on'', she said.