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The 2nd Australasian FASD Conference was a huge success with over 350 delegates attending from a wide range of disciplines and countries. The conference was co-chaired by Professor Carol Bower and Professor Elizabeth Elliott. James Lush was the MC for the event and a beautiful welcome to country was delivered by Whadjuck/Barlardong Elder Marie Taylor.

Graphic representation of the conference
The two-day conference and the pre-conference Justice Workshop were documented throughout each day by graphic artist Will Bessen from Tuna Blue Long Haul Facilitation.

Keynote sessions
Keynote speeches were delivered by Professor Elizabeth Elliott, Ms Claire Gyde, Professor Svetlana Popova, Dr Kerryn Bagley, Dr Michael Kobor and Mr Michael Thorn. Many diverse presentations were delivered throughout the conference (too many to document here) and only some of the conference highlights are outlined below. Several awards were presented at the conclusion of the conference, with Claire Gyde winning the people’s choice award for her moving presentation titled All is not lost – the art of living with hope in which she described her family’s journey with FASD. Claire is the Chairperson of New Zealand’s national FASD support group FASD-CAN.

Launch of the National FASD Strategic Action Plan
Minister for Health Greg Hunt gave an opening video address announcing the launch of the Commonwealth Government’s National FASD Strategic Action Plan 2018-2028. The key aims of the Strategic Plan are to reduce the prevalence of FASD, reduce the associated impact of FASD and improve the quality of life for people living with FASD. Minister Hunt also announced a commitment of $7.2 million in funding to tackle FASD in Australia. Read more here.

Launch of a new resource for educators
The Marulu FASD Strategy launched their new book Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and complex trauma: A resource for educators. This was published by the Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre and can be downloaded here.

An international research collaboration
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the FASD Research Australia Centre of Research Excellence (FASD Research Australia) and the Canada FASD Research Network (CanFASD). This three-year agreement commits to a collaboration to enhance research into the prevention, diagnosis and intervention of FASD. Australia and Canada are currently the only countries in the world with national FASD research networks.

Display tables and the launch of a business
Display tables were presented by the FASD Hub, NOFASD Australia, DEN, FARE, Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet, Fostering Difference, Fresh Start, Speech Pathology Australia and CliniFace. NOFASD’s table provided fact sheets and promotional items and also sold greeting cards comprising photographs taken by Jacob, a 13-year-old with FASD. Jacob visited the table to talk to conference delegates and was surprised and proud to be announced the winner of the FASD Hub’s Creative Artwork Competition. Jacob recently launched an online business selling his digital photographs through Digital Journey Photography.

Parent/Carer panel
A parent and carer panel discussion was hosted by NOFASD Australia titled Voices of parents and carers for health professionals – how can we help each other? Five parents and carers shared their experience of raising children with FASD in Australia.

Parent/Carer dinner
NOFASD Australia also hosted a dinner for carers and parents of those with FASD. The purpose of this was to create an opportunity for attendees to meet others with a shared experience and expand their support networks. Parents and carers from Australia and New Zealand discussed some of the difficulties they face and had conversations about strategies they have found effective in supporting their young people. Some of the NOFASD Australia team facilitated the dinner, shown below.

Inaugural Sue Miers Award
Sue Miers, the carer of a child with FASD and the founder of NOFASD Australia, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to the FASD field for over 20 years. The conference co-chairs Professors Elliott and Bower announced that the Lifetime Achievement Award is to be known as the Sue Miers Award from this day forward. Sue received a standing ovation from the delegates. Read more.

Best poster award
Twelve posters were on display throughout the conference with topics including international policies on alcohol use during pregnancy, the economic cost of FASD, a profile of children diagnosed with FASD and caregiver experiences of the diagnostic process. The best poster award was presented to Diana Barnett from the Westmead Children’s Hospital and Jessica Hannan from NOFASD Australia for their poster The role of Occupational Therapists in diagnosis, intervention and education of FASD on young people.

Pre-conference workshops
The two pre-conference workshops also proved popular, with delegates choosing either the Clinical Workshop or FASD Justice Workshop. The Justice Workshop concluded with all participants contributing to a Shared Intention which identified four primary calls to action.

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