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NOFASD Australia Podcast

Pregnancy and Alcohol: The Surprising Reality

#28 Rural and Remote Australia with Nirosha Boaden

Kurt is joined by Nirosha Boaden, a mental health social worker, and intellectual disability academic, and a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales. They talk about the lack of services in the remote areas of Australia, her experiences with FASD in rural areas and how Australia needs to improve education about FASD and the risks involved in alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

For more information about FASD, please go to: https://www.nofasd.org.au/

Producers: Kurt Lewis, Louise Gray and Julie Flanagan

Narrator: Frances Price

Interviewer: Kurt Lewis

Interviewee: Nirosha Boaden

The copyright is owned by NOFASD Australia.

All rights reserved – No reproduction or use of this content without written consent of Kurt Lewis and NOFASD Australia.

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the interviewee. NOFASD makes every effort to ensure all content is free from judgement and stigma. NOFASD’s mission includes reducing stigma for families and individuals impacted by FASD.

Nirosha Boaden Biography

Born in Sri Lanka, Nirosha moved to Australia as a child and now lives and works in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory where she works as a Senior Specialist for Child and Youth Mental Health. She is currently completing a PhD on the topic of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders at the University of New South Wales where she is also involved in teaching courses in the areas of mental health, trauma, and challenging behaviours, related to intellectual, neurological, and psychological disability.

In April 2022 she was the recipient of the Norma Parker Award for Australian Social Work. Nirosha won the award as the best new author for her paper focusing on the transition to NDIS for Early Childhood Intervention. In May 2022 she was a finalist in the “Three-minute Thesis” competition at NOFASD Australia’s conference, The FASD Forum ’22. In the same year Nirosha was awarded a scholarship from the Northern Territory Primary Health Network as a Subject Matter Expert for “Project Echo”. Her focus is on challenging behaviours related to neurodevelopmental disability, intellectual disability, and psycho-social disability.

She is passionate about working with children, adolescents and families with a lived experience of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and supporting them to meet their psycho-social needs and realise their potential.

Interview Transcript

Frances Price (00:00):

If you’re a regular follower of NOFASD’s podcast series, you’ll know that most of the guests who’ve been interviewed in previous episodes have been based in metropolitan areas. And in Australia, that generally means our cities located on the coastline, whether in the east or west of this vast continent. In this episode, however, we are taking you into the central heart of Australia to Alice Springs and we’ll give you a glimpse into what makes this area of Australia so special. Our guest today grew up in regional New South Wales, but now lives in Alice Springs and has chosen to focus her research and work on the specific needs of rural and remote areas throughout Australia. It’s time now to hand over to our interviewer, Kurt Lewis, to introduce our interview guest for this episode.

Kurt Lewis (00:56):

Welcome, welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to this brand-new episode of “Pregnancy and Alcohol: The Surprising Reality”. My name is Kurt Lewis, your friendly neighborhood podcaster. And today, I am interviewing another amazing podcast guest. I am joined by Nirosha Boaden, a mental health social worker, and intellectual disability academic, and a PhD candidate with the University of New South Wales, Sydney. Welcome to the podcast, Nirosha. How’s it going?

Nirosha Boaden (01:27):

Hey, Kurt. I’m doing really well today and I’m actually so excited and even more excited to be here from hearing you introduce me. So, thanks so much for having me on the show today.

Kurt Lewis (01:40):

Well, it’s how my boss, Julie, usually says the energy increases when you get someone introducing you in an epic voice. So, I hope I’ve done the same for you.

Nirosha Boaden (01:49):

I love it. I love it. So, I just also want to acknowledge before we begin today, the traditional owners and custodians of the lands on which we live and work, as you know, I’m on Arrernte country, which is in Mparntwe, that is Alice Springs. And I’d really like to acknowledge that the Arrernte people are the sovereign, original custodians of the Mparntwe region and I’d also like to pay my respects to all indigenous elders, past, present, and emerging.

Kurt Lewis (02:20):

Thank you for that, Nirosha. We should do that more often, to be honest.

Nirosha Boaden (02:24):

I love that. I really have learned more and more since I’ve been here in Alice Springs on such a beautiful spiritual and cultural country, that this is the way forward.

Kurt Lewis (02:36):

So, you live and work in Alice Springs, in Central Australia. For all of our listeners who aren’t lucky enough to live in that area, what do you love most about Alice Springs?

Nirosha Boaden (02:47):

Oh, my goodness, Kurt. So, there’s so many things that I love about Alice Springs, but as you just heard, I especially love that Alice Springs is known to be Australia’s spiritual home and the Arrernte people’s Dreamtime story teaches us that the region was created by giant caterpillars. And so, that’s known as the Inapertwa story of the Western Arrernte people and I just really love this. So, the giant caterpillars can be seen in the large stunning ridges of the East and West MacDonnell Ranges that shelter the town of Alice Springs.

Nirosha Boaden (03:25):

So, if you can imagine here, Kurt, I wake up every morning watching the beautiful sunrise over the ranges and I’m really lucky enough to watch a spectacular sunset – and that looks like orange, red, purple, and pink pretty much every night. So, it really is a truly amazing sight to see. And every day, I learn more about being at one with this beautiful land, and it’s really humbling experience for me.

Kurt Lewis (03:53):

So, Nirosha, you’ve been a mental health social worker, as well as an intellectual disability academic. What drew you to the area of mental health and intellectual disability?

Nirosha Boaden (04:05):

Well, I really love this question, Kurt, because I think it is a bit of a serious question too, because what drew me most to being a mental health social worker is my own experience. So, I do have in my families, there’s a strong genetic history of mental illness. So, I was adopted when I was six weeks old from Sri Lanka and I was adopted into a white Australian family and then later fostered into another family. So, whether it’s my family members or extended family members or friends of family, really, there was quite a wide range of unique stresses for them across the life course.

Nirosha Boaden (04:45):

And really what that looks like is people closest to me experiencing things like droughts and floods or bush fires, financial insecurity or employment insecurity, alcoholism and mental ill health and psychiatric conditions, also trauma histories and domestic family violence, family breakdown, and suicide, because I’m from a rural and remote area and a real lack of access to mental health services where I lived in that rural and remote areas of New South Wales. So, it’s really quite close to my heart and quite a serious topic for me about being a mental health social worker. I’m not sure if you know Kurt much about mental health in rural, remote Australia, but I’d be happy to share with yourself and the listeners a little bit about that.

Kurt Lewis (05:41):

Well, please do. It’s a topic that should be really covered more and I have heard several things. I did watch a very interesting and eye-opening “Four Corners” documentary about health services in rural areas and how there’s very much a lack thereof, of health services in remote areas, which I somewhat find rather deplorable.

Nirosha Boaden (06:01):

I’m really glad to hear you say that, and to hear you also say that you were able to watch a documentary on “Four Corners, because some of the issues in rural remote areas, well, we don’t see them as often on TV or news programs. And so, the general public aren’t always aware, but if you live and work here or it affects your family and friends, then you are more aware, and it’s really a significant issue. So, really, in rural and remote Australia, people are 50% more likely to die by suicide than those living in major cities.

Nirosha Boaden (06:41):

So, for me, Kurt, what that means is because I’m from a rural remote area is that half of all the people, I know are really likely to be impacted by suicide at some point in their life. Here in Alice Springs especially and other remote communities, our first nations peoples are also impacted by suicide at rates up to six times higher than other Australians. So, as you were saying, when we think about mental illness and think about mental health and also thinking about rural remote areas, this is really quite concerning.

Nirosha Boaden (07:19):

So, out here as well, if you are someone who’s trying to reach out, you decide to reach out for professional help, this can be really difficult because it’s really difficult to access the services, especially because we have quite a large shortage of medical and allied health specialists. That includes Aboriginal mental health workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, occupational therapists, and of course, mental health social workers like me.

Nirosha Boaden (07:50):

So, yeah, I’m really glad that we’re talking about this today as part of the topic around FASD too, because I think getting that message out there, that there is a lot of work to be done in communities, but especially for people and communities in remote areas to access services for health and for mental health and wellbeing is just so important and we’ve just got to spread that word.

Kurt Lewis (08:14):

Definitely, 100%. And I imagine the same thing with mental health that services for people with FASD and even diagnosis services for people who are displaying symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, it must be very difficult to even get a diagnosis, even in Alice Springs. Is that a true statement or am I making a bad assumption?

Nirosha Boaden (08:38):

Oh, my goodness. It’s an absolutely true statement, Kurt, and this is something that’s really important. This is really something that needs to be addressed. So, in the Northern Territory anyways, because we have such large geographical lands, that spans hundreds of kilometers, what happens here is usually families and children, they actually need to travel into Alice Springs to be able to get different assessments or to access mental health treatment or to access early intervention services.

Nirosha Boaden (09:18):

And I am really proud of being here and being a Territorian and that now there are more and more services that do fly onto community and country to be able to assess children, whether that’s for FASD or whether that’s for autism spectrum disorder or other neurodevelopmental delays. There is still quite a big lack for us to be able to treat the co-occurring FASD and psychiatric conditions. This is really hard because we are in geographical areas. The mental health teams, at least for child and youth mental health services, we’re situated in Alice Springs.

Nirosha Boaden (09:59):

Our catchment areas, we have a team in Tennant Creek and in the Barkly Region where you can come, but because of such shortages and lack of funding, we only have a few workers there, but also our teams, we don’t have the funding and we don’t have the ability to be flown out onto communities, so to speak.

Nirosha Boaden (10:23):

So, it’s really quite a tough one, because while we are progressing in the way of children and young people being able to be assessed for FASD, which is so important for them to access things like early intervention and the National Disability Insurance Scheme to have those services, we actually have a gap here for those children and young people with FASD who have co-occurring psychiatric conditions like ADHD or like depression and impulsive and severe types of behaviors or who might be more likely to deteriorate and become known to the mental health services.

Nirosha Boaden (11:08):

We actually have quite a large gap in being able to consistently meet their mental health needs through consistent therapy and culturally supportive therapy, but also through medications, because we have a real difficulty here as obviously when children and young people and families are traveling around, then us mental health professionals, it’s really, really difficult for us to be able to monitor safety and wellbeing whilst on country. And we also think it’s quite inappropriate as well to expect our communities and elders or people who are out there to be monitoring mental health and wellbeing or especially medications when actually whilst communities and elders and families have capacity to do so, it’s actually a job of a mental health professional to do that.

Nirosha Boaden (12:06):

So, we’ve got a really big gap here, Kurt, and I’m glad that you’ve been able to help me to talk about that today because I think it’s a big area that needs a lot of advocacy in. We need to look at policy changes and things like that and how can we work in this space and really look at our governments getting more funding in this area to make sure our children and young people with FASD and co-occurring psychiatric conditions aren’t being left behind. This is really important.

Kurt Lewis (12:38):

I completely agree. I imagine there’s great difficulties as well in terms of central Australia is a big place. You could fit whole countries in there. It’s almost like a country within a country, if you don’t mind the analogy. It’s a lot of ground to cover, especially for so many people.

Nirosha Boaden (12:57):

Absolutely. And I think that is so beautiful in itself that here in the Northern Territory, it’s so rich in culture. And like you said, it’s so beautiful that languages and culture live on here, but it also means that the lay of the land in other states and territories, which are more focused with Western medicalised models and Eurocentric views of health systems, they don’t fit here. So, we got to find a way forward. I know that the Aboriginal health services here, they do such a fantastic job and public health services here as well, are really trying their best to work in this space, but we’ve always got room to move and to learn, and to just always do so much better.

Nirosha Boaden (13:50):

So, I’m a really big advocate in this space because I think let’s keep going with this. Let’s keep progressing. Let’s not become complacent about it. Let’s keep going. So, we can really meet the needs of our children and young people out here with FASD and also with psychiatric conditions too. There’s a better way forward and I know we’ll get there.

Kurt Lewis (14:12):

I agree and I one hundred percent hope so as well, if not for just the sake of all the people who have FASD, but all the people suffering from different mental illness. I was just wondering, you are currently completing a Doctorate of Social Work specialising in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Why did you decide to specialise your doctorate on FASD? What drew you to FASD?

Nirosha Boaden (14:36):

Well, I’ll first talk a little bit about how I got here to this doctorate, but it’s both based on like I’ve told you a bit about my personal life story there and a real interest. So, really in 2015, I did complete a Master of Public Health where I specialised in sexual reproductive health at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. That’s at the University of Melbourne, had amazing lecturers and mentors there. And I was able to complete a minor thesis where I really explored how the diagnosis of FASD was happening in Victorian hospitals and I was really looking at different understandings and recommendations for a way forward.

Nirosha Boaden (15:21):

And that was around about the time when they were coming up with the different ideas around what that pilot for the new FASD diagnostic tool would look like. So, it was quite a new space, I think, and I just really became engrossed in it. I really thought this is a huge gap and I have some experience with family and close friends that I really think, yeah, this is an area that I really want to focus my time on, to give back to the community.

Nirosha Boaden (15:53):

So, then when it got to my PhD study that I’m doing now, in Social Work, really, it builds upon that first thesis. Now, a lot of that work I’m using to guide and inform my PhD now, which is exploring FASD in rural and remote Australia.  But,  when I really think about it, how did I get involved in this area and really why, is because from my life experience, my friends who have had children born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and probably you know Kurt, growing up in rural area and remote areas, well, for me at school, anyway, I remember as a teenager, you go to high school and I did have one PE class on sexual education.

Nirosha Boaden (16:41):

We probably had one class as well about looking at risk-taking behaviors and that included drinking alcohol or binge drinking, using illicit substances like marijuana and other drugs. And of course, it was very awkward in that class where we spoke about sexual intercourse and teenage pregnancy, but I really found it interesting that we were never provided with any information about how alcohol or drugs could harm your unborn baby.

Nirosha Boaden (17:12):

And really that seems quite ridiculous today given that the reason the teachers were giving us the information in the PE class was because they thought it was really important about telling us that it’s important to use condoms, about that there’s sexually transmitted infections, and about how we can, and should be having, sexually safe behaviors, especially when talking about being influenced by alcohol or drugs, because these teachers and in the syllabus, the education syllabus, they know that young people in high school are becoming sexually active, but at the same time are experimenting with alcohol and drugs. So, interesting because never once in any of the classes did they explicitly inform us that alcohol can harm your baby.

Nirosha Boaden (18:02):

So, just all thinking about this together, I really could see how some of my friends, if they were better informed, and if that education had started at those high school years in our PE classes, would their lives be different and would their children’s lives be different. So, this has been a long journey for me in focusing my PhD work in this area, but I remember my friend when we were about 16 years-old at the time, she did fall pregnant while we were at high school and decided to have the baby, but before she found out, we were going to house parties and doing binge drinking, like most teenagers would Kurt.

Kurt Lewis (18:48):

Yeah, of course.

Nirosha Boaden (18:50):

So, yeah, teenagers do that stuff, and I was doing that. And so, by the time she had found out she was pregnant, had already consumed alcohol. And so, when I think back to that, it was a really tough pregnancy for her, a lot of doctor’s appointments. She really had a lot of emotions. So, at different times, feeling really happy to be having a baby, but also came with that being a bit frightened and scared of what life would her baby have been affected by alcohol. How affected would her baby’s brain be? And she really wasn’t sure, and you couldn’t tell that. She really found that quite unsettling, not knowing what the future might hold for her and her baby and not being able to plan that.

Nirosha Boaden (19:36):

So, I think about that, and I think about as well today, how amazing her son is. He’s almost 15 years old and he’s an adolescent. He’s absolutely incredible, has had so many challenges, but also has had so many strengths and has so many strengths, and growing into amazing young man who is just someone who is so kind and generous, a generous friend, great at AFL, and such an amazing sense of humor.

Nirosha Boaden (20:08):

So, I think about this experience for her, as an outsider looking in, I really thought about this should be a message going out there and we should be thinking about this more because FASD being a preventable disability, but also in rural remote areas, we don’t have as much access to information or health workers or people that are frontline workers like teachers, that were teaching us in PE about sexual health. They didn’t necessarily have this information at the time. So, that’s why I really am quite motivated to get the message out, but also look for a way forward here. How can we do this better and make sure that our society can be better informed to make informed choices for themselves?

Nirosha Boaden (20:57):

So, even now, Kurt, I think about my friend who’s in their late 40s, really her and her husband would just only have a few glasses of wine after work and then she found out she was pregnant. So, her baby wasn’t born with any facial features or anything like that. I mean, it wasn’t really until preschool and kindergarten, that it was around kindergarten, around age of five, that her child was then diagnosed with FASD.

Nirosha Boaden (21:27):

So, their experiences are vast. I think about – that it can really impact anyone’s life. It doesn’t matter if you are the teenager experimenting with alcohol and doing those normal developmental things that you should be doing at those teenage years or if you are professional woman coming home after work and you and your husband having dinner and things and having a glass of wine with your meal, FASD can really affect anyone, and it affects everyone across Australia. So, when I think about that, it’s really why I’m really passionate about this area and I’m specialising in FASD for Social Work, because I think social workers as well, we really come into contact with a range of people across the lifespan, whether it’s little babies all the way up to working in aged care settings.

Nirosha Boaden (22:25):

We have a lot of experience and we’ll come across a lot of people with different life experiences. So, I really want as well social workers from across a range of settings to really upskill in the area and get passionate about this, because I think we have a really big role to play in, not just thinking about how we talk about FASD and de-stigmatising FASD, but I think social workers have a really big role to play in promoting early intervention and diagnosis and management across the life course. So, I could talk about it forever with you, Kurt, but that’s really why and how I’m here today and doing my specialisation in this area.

Kurt Lewis (23:10):

No, wow. I completely agree. It can affect anyone, anywhere. It doesn’t matter what your age or your social, economic status, FASD can occur in anyone who’s had that prenatal alcohol exposure. You really bring a really great point out in terms of schools as well, because I’ve left school probably over a decade ago and I can distinctly remember in PE, I was not taught about the effects of alcohol in pregnancy and even drugs in pregnancy. That was distinctly not there.

Nirosha Boaden (23:43):

Left out. It was just left out. Yeah.

Kurt Lewis (23:45):

I remember the condoms. I remember everything else. That wasn’t there – which is disappointing. I don’t know if that’s changed, or I don’t know if there’s anything we’re doing differently now. I hope it is being done differently. I hope this is being taught, at least somewhat covered, but it’s important that it is covered because I think it’s a very important aspect of pregnancy that we don’t talk about, FASD and the effects of alcohol in pregnancy. I remember before I even started this doing this podcast, I had a distinct memory that I did know that alcohol and pregnancy weren’t something that mixed, but I didn’t know the effects and all that sort of thing. Now that you have all that knowledge, it’s hard to reconcile and you think, “Why wasn’t I taught that sooner?”

Nirosha Boaden (24:29):

It’s like unjust for the education system, I think, to not teach teenagers at high school about that because we get to go over everything in that sexual health class and you’re taught everything about safe sex, about sexually transmitted infections, about identifiers LGBTIQ+, and you can be yourself and all these things about sexuality and sexual health and reproductive health. But this part is particularly so important, because I think it’s a time of our lives, where we don’t have the information. We’re only becoming teenagers like adolescents and learning.

Nirosha Boaden (25:11):

We are doing risky things which parents, or our carers, would rather us not be doing, but we’re going to do it because it’s our developmental age and our brain is saying, “Go and be social, go and be risky.” It’s a milestone for us, but also, it’s the adults in our society that know how that alcohol can mix if you are doing risky things like being sexually active. And I think we can be a better-informed society if the education system can teach that too. I think that would be so amazing.

Kurt Lewis (25:47):

That would be. So, you’ve been doing some research in, as you mentioned, FASD in rural areas. Can you explain to listeners about the results of your research? I imagine it’s still early days in terms of your research, but can you tell us more about your research and how these results could have real-world applications?

Nirosha Boaden (26:06):

Yeah, so you’re right, Kurt. I’ve still got another two years-ish to go, but I can speak to what their initial findings are from the data I’ve collected. There’s some really important points. And I think one that’s really important here in the Northern Territory and really quite interesting as well because it’s significant to only the Northern Territory, is that some of the participants in the surveys and interviews have really discussed the current policy context in the Northern Territory in relation to alcohol policies, and it’s been quite heavily contested. So, you might have heard some things over there in your different States and Territories about what’s called the banned drinkers registration and what was the NT intervention, but some participants have spoken about this.

Nirosha Boaden (27:01):

So, what they’ve spoken about is how the re-introduction of the banned drinkers registration was introduced in 2016 and, they’ve also spoken about the lift of the NT intervention and how peak Aboriginal groups are really advocating in response to this. So, some of the findings are really looking at the discussions about how communities are responding to this particular decision, to have alcohol to be sold in remote communities again for the first time in 15 years and how these remote communities plan to manage this. And so, some of the Aboriginal health workers that I’ve spoken to out here, they’ve been really explicit about thinking about how these lifts on the NT intervention – it’s now an ‘opt-in’ type of thing – and what this means for future generations.

Nirosha Boaden (28:02):

And a few of them have spoken about, “Well, what does this mean for FASD? Because we already didn’t really have the data on it. We already know it’s underestimated. So, what is that going to mean now?” They want to know. They’re actually asking me about, “Oh, well, did these interventions… Were these policies that were implemented… Did they really bring about good outcomes in respect to FASD? So, could we see that the population data is actually less for the amount of children diagnosed with FASD?” That is what Aboriginal health workers are saying to me. It’s a fair point to be made and it’s fair that they’re asking about this.

Nirosha Boaden (28:43):

So, they’re some of the findings about further discussions that I think will be really important and will have real life meaning when I finish the data analysis and publish this research, but also what’s been really important is a lot of professionals are really speaking to me about FASD and are still talking about how it’s just really difficult for them to understand that they don’t really know where to start and that they’re not really sure about what it means as a disability and how you would access the NDIS or what supports that child or young person would need.

Nirosha Boaden (29:25):

I’ve heard a lot about people being really proud and really hopeful given that now, FASD assessment is really up and going out here and we’ve got amazing Aboriginal health organisations and new paediatric health and things like that, that are doing such a fantastic job in the area. But a lot of participants have said to me, “Look, I still don’t really understand what to do with the management plan, like where to next.? How do we do this?” They’ve also said to me, “Look, you’ve given FASD management plans, but we actually don’t have those resources here or access to specialist staff out here.”

Nirosha Boaden (30:02):

So, I’m really looking forward to publishing those results because I think it’s opening up conversations and also bringing it to the forefront to say, we have made really good progress in this area, but actually in rural remote areas, workers and families and carers are still requiring more support and we need to put funding and money there to do so. I’ve also spoken to professionals and participants, and I really love just how motivated they are and really keen to learn about FASD. Really a lot of teachers, they want to be FASD-informed, asking me, “Where can I get more training? Are you going to do more training? Can you do in-house training?”

Nirosha Boaden (30:49):

Really reaching out and asking about that, because teachers and schools in the education system are wanting to be FASD-informed and have this in their toolkit. And I think most importantly, really from these findings, I think this research really will have the ability to guide future improvements for frontline workers, whether it’s knowledge and skills and practice related to FASD in rural remote Australia. I think the findings from the research will be really important to bring forth very important implications for future social policy on broader level issues around FASD in Australia too. So, I’m looking forward to publishing that in the next couple of years. And of course, Kurt, you’ll be the first person who I send it all over to as well.

Kurt Lewis (31:43):

Please do.

Nirosha Boaden (31:43):

For sure, for sure.

Kurt Lewis (31:43):

I look forward to reading it.

Nirosha Boaden (31:43):

Absolutely.

Kurt Lewis (31:43):

Well, I particularly enjoyed your “Three-minute Thesis” submission for “The FASD Forum ’22”. So, I look forward to reading the full thing.

Nirosha Boaden (31:51):

I had such a blast doing the “Three-minute Thesis” competition with you as well. So, yeah, absolutely. I love to share these findings when they come out with you.

Kurt Lewis (32:00):

Also, if you have any of the professionals or anything like that who are asking in terms of NDIS and supports and all that thing, send them to the NOFASD website. We’ve just opened up a new page on FASD and the NDIS, a number of webinars as well and we’ve got the Helpline as well. So, please pass that onto them if anyone has any questions if you think that’s the right resource to have.

Nirosha Boaden (32:27):

Absolutely. This is amazing. I love that you guys have FASD and NDIS page now. This is going to be amazing because I do always tell people of the Helpline and the website, but NDIS is an evolving area. So, that’s really cool. I’m so glad to hear.

Kurt Lewis (32:46):

Well, we’re keen to spread all knowledge about it. So, here’s my big question. This is the question I ask everyone on my podcast, bit of a drum roll there. Is there more our listeners could be doing as individuals, or we could be doing as a whole society to support carers and people with FASD?

Nirosha Boaden (33:06):

This is an amazing question, Kurt. I wish I had a magic wand, but I don’t. And so, I will tailor my answer more to when I think about social workers, if there’s social workers, health workers out there listening to the podcast, because I think it’s our role to really support carers and people with FASD and whole of society. That’s our job. It’s what we’re paid to do. So, let’s try and do our job really well. And I think if we think about social work or child and youth mental health services, like disability support services, NDIS private practitioners, schools and public health workers, we are usually front of house, the first line of supports for children and young people, individuals with FASD.

Nirosha Boaden (34:02):

And I think all of us could absolutely be doing a much better job at coordinating these services and really providing a holistic care through a model of wraparound support. So, when I think about that, Kurt, I’m thinking about, “What does a wraparound model of support look like for FASD?” It might look like the early childhood education teacher or primary school teacher working alongside mental health professionals, like mental health social workers or child development teams, and NDIS support workers to provide tailored, specific, and individualised supports that actually wrap around that child, or the individual, from the home to their school and in the community, or while they’re on country.

Nirosha Boaden (34:55):

And I think we can do this, and the way to do it is to really ensure we are meeting all of the specific biological, psychological, social, spiritual, and cultural needs of that individual with FASD, through a “person in environment” lens. So, it sounds like a lot, but I think we can do it. So, what it means is we need to consider the needs, and most importantly, strengths of individuals, families, and communities. And I believe if we can do this together, as health workers on the front line, as social workers, as school teachers, we can also act to reduce stigma in our society around FASD.

Nirosha Boaden (35:43):

So, really, Kurt, I want to let everyone know as well for anyone in the Northern Territory who wants to know more about this, who are working with children and young people, how they can do that wraparound support or require some secondary consultation, I am in the NT so I can see people or organisations face to face. But if you’re somewhere else, I can do telehealth.

Kurt Lewis (36:07):

You don’t need to write this down, ladies and gentlemen. It’s in the show notes below, which are attached to this podcast. So, please feel free to use any of those links.

Nirosha Boaden (36:14):

You’re so amazing, Kurt. Thank you.

Kurt Lewis (36:19):

The least I could do, I’m sorry to interrupt you there, but is there anything else you wanted to add to that?

Nirosha Boaden (36:24):

No, honestly, that’s everything I think, I could, and you could – we could probably talk about how much we care about FASD and this message and how truly passionate we are in this area and how hopeful we are that the future generations for children with FASD and co-occurring psychiatric conditions will be a place of inclusion and really meaningful participation in society. I could talk about this with you forever.

Kurt Lewis (36:57):

Well, I might have to bring you back when you’re done your research and we can talk about it some more. I want to thank you for coming on the podcast, giving us a piece of your knowledge and your wisdom. Yeah, I just want to thank you for sharing with us today.

Nirosha Boaden (37:13):

Thank you so much for having me, Kurt. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I can’t wait to chat with you again. It’s been an absolute blast. Thanks.

Kurt Lewis (37:21):

Thank you.

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One Response

  1. Thank you Nirosha for sharing your experiences and challenges of working in remote areas in Australia.

    I hope the NT Government will listen to AHW and the leaders community on their stand on sales of alcohol in remote communities.

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