NOFASD Australia is proud to announce that our founder, Sue Miers, AM, has been honoured by the University of Western Australia with the award of an honorary Doctor of Letters.
The honorary Doctorate was conferred on Sue at the UWA Graduation Ceremony on Wednesday 13th December 2023, at which Sue also delivered the Graduation Address. The University conferred this high honour on Sue in recognition of her outstanding contribution over many years to the advocacy for FASD, community education and reconciliation.
Sue founded what became NOFASD Australia in 1999, following a personal journey which initiated what became her life’s work, dedicated to raising awareness about the prevention and management of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
Sue is the mother of four children, the youngest of whom entered her family via the foster care system in 1982. Developmental delays associated with this child led to Sue researching possible reasons for the symptoms and behaviours she was observing which weren’t consistent with her experience of parenting her other children. As a result of her research, Sue was one of the first Australians to realise the significance and impact of prenatal exposure to alcohol. However, it wasn’t until a trip to Canada in 1999 that her daughter finally received her FASD diagnosis.
That same year Sue established the first national FASD Support Group – which over time has evolved to become NOFASD Australia, the national peak body for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Over the almost 25 years since then, Sue’s advocacy for FASD has been persistent, passionate, and always informed by her ongoing, active engagement with research being undertaken around the world on this topic.
In 1999 Sue wrote a detailed report highlighting the lack of awareness of FASD in Australia and disseminated it nationally to politicians, government, and non-government agencies. While this report did not receive the acknowledgement and level of support that she expected at that time, Sue continued to lobby extensively on both a state and national level to raise awareness about FASD, and over time was an invited member of, and reported to, various national and state government agencies in Australia, as a recognised parent authority in this area. Sue was involved as a Senior Consultant for the FASD Collaboration which resulted in the creation of the first Australian Guide to the Diagnosis of FASD published in 2016. Sue is acknowledged as one of the co-authors of six research papers that resulted from this major project.
During her time as the Chair of NOFASD’s Board, Sue volunteered her time and expertise to deliver FASD presentations/workshops to foster carers, teachers, drug and alcohol workers, disability workers, mental health workers, midwives, and many other community organisations throughout Australia. In addition, she provided one-on-one support to many parents /carers and individuals living with FASD who have benefited from her extensive knowledge about this disability, as well as her significant expertise and knowledge around the secondary conditions which often develop for people affected by FASD.
In June 2006 Sue was awarded the Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia for service to the community through the establishment of the National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Community Education and Reconciliation. She has been widely acknowledged as a significant contributor to knowledge and awareness of FASD in Australia and her advocacy has contributed to Australia now being one of the very few nations in the world that has a national strategic plan to address this disability. The National Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Strategic Action Plan 2018–2028 aims to reduce the incidence and impact of FASD in Australia and to improve the quality of life for people living with FASD.
Sue retired from NOFASD Australia in an official capacity in 2015, but continues to provide voluntary support to the organisation in various roles. In addition, Sue’s practice-based wisdom ensures that NOFASD is able to develop staff, support clients and upskill those working to enhance the lives of individuals and families affected by FASD.
NOFASD warmly congratulates Sue on the conferral of the Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Western Australia. This additional public recognition of her outstanding achievements in advocacy for FASD is well deserved and will be celebrated by all whose lives have been improved by her dedication to raising awareness and support in Australia for this prevalent, but often still ‘hidden’ disability.