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National Organisation for FASD Australia

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NOFASD Australia would like to congratulate Associate Professor Anita Gibbs, lecturer in social work, sociology and criminology at the University of Otago who was awarded the 2020 Critic and Conscience of Society Award, for her tireless advocacy raising the profile of FASD in New Zealand.

Since 2012, Anita has been researching and raising awareness of the impacts of FASD. She has lived experience and understanding of this complex and challenging neuro-disability. She and her husband adopted two sons from Russia, now in their teens, who live with FASD.

Her main goal is to ensure that FASD receives full financial support, just as Autism is receiving in New Zealand. Anita explains, “Autism, a very similar disability can attract large sums of individualised funding, that those with FASD cannot, and this is in spite of the fact that FASD is accepted to be at least two to three times as prevalent as Autism. It is not good to constantly read newspaper headlines in which a person’s disability has been dis-regarded and led to exclusion from school, crime, or becoming victims of those who would exploit them.” Anita also explained that “it is hard to do research that focuses on reducing the damage caused by pre-natal alcohol exposure; it is an often unseen and unpopular issue.”

Recipients of the Critic and Conscience of Society Award receive $50,000 to assist with research conferences and other work-related expenses, while acknowledging academic staff who provide independent, expert commentary on issues that affect the New Zealand community and future generations. Universities New Zealand administered the award and the judging panel felt that Anita’s “extensive work” showed a true depth of commitment to the ‘critic and conscience’ role.

In her speech, Anita was gracious in receiving the award, stating that the prize money “will be carefully used to maximise the implementation of evidence-based research to practice and policy initiatives to ensure more families who look after those with FASD get the supports that they need, and more services will be created to help people with the Disability.”

Over the next two years Anita has many important goals.

These include:
• Research and practice-based seminars on FASD and its intersection with the Justice System;
• Development of a youth justice model-of-care to help practitioners in their work;
• Webinars on FASD research and best practice;
• Video clips with young people who have FASD, so they can tell their own stories;
• Workshops in less easily reached communities in the South Island and some North Island locations; and;
• Supporting the Ministry of Health and Corrections’ Department to develop their interventions to support people with FASD in their care and custody.

NOFASD is proud to work closely with Anita Gibbs. Anita’s projects with NOFASD have included caregiver training and webinars on adolescent and child to parent violence and abuse. She is a staunch believer in collaborative work that values the expertise of those with lived experience of FASD. Her work benefits New Zealanders and Australians as both countries aim to build on the recent success of the alcohol labelling campaign.

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