On 9 September 2019, International FASD Awareness Day, an inquiry was referred to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee into effective approaches to prevention and diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and strategies for optimising life outcomes for people with FASD.
Individuals, organisations, and institutions across Australia made submissions which explored the breadth of the impact of FASD on Australian communities. NOFASD Australia reviewed all submissions and extracted a series of quotes which defined themes that arose across the submissions. The Senate’s final report detailing their findings from the inquiry was released on Wednesday 17th of March 2021.
In today’s blog, the final in the Senate Inquiry Series, we explore the Findings of the Senate Inquiry into effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and support for FASD.
Eight themes from all submissions were extracted and discussed by the committee:
An Invisible Epidemic
“The committee found that FASD is still not well understood or recognised in Australia and has been called an ‘invisible epidemic’.”
Alcohol and Pregnancy
“There is no safe level of alcohol that can be consumed during pregnancy. Unfortunately, Australia has one of the highest rates of maternal alcohol consumption in the world.”
“A longer-term strategy and funding for FASD awareness and education, including in secondary school curriculums.”
“For a range of reasons including stigma and a lack of understanding, health professionals do not always discuss alcohol with women or provide accurate advice or referrals.”
“There is a clear need to ensure FASD diagnosis is more widely available across Australia. This includes building and training the health workforce involved in FASD diagnosis and exploring alternative models of assessment and the use of technology.”
Support and Assistance
“FASD must be specifically recognised as a disability by the Australian Government and the social security system.”
Child Protection and Justice Systems
“It is apparent that traditional approaches to justice are not adequate for people with FASD, and those working in the justice system need further training in FASD, and diversion programs and therapeutic models of detention must be further explored and expanded.”
First Nations Communities
“The committee recognises the importance of a community-led approaches and was impressed by the initiatives of First Nations communities to prevent and manage FASD. The committee considers that the Australian Government must provide adequate and longer-term investment for these projects and future proposals for holistic and community-led approaches.”
The committee further highlighted that:
- “Since the Hidden Harm report , the establishment of a national policy and coordinating mechanism, as well as funding for research, prevention, diagnosis and support, represents a significant step forward in the national response to FASD.”
- “The investment in research and innovative programs in the past decade has seen Australia move to the forefront in international efforts for FASD prevention, diagnosis and support.”
- “Despite this progress, there is still a limited awareness of FASD in the community and mixed messages about drinking during pregnancy in the general population and from health professionals.”
- “There is an alarming lack of community awareness of the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, with studies suggesting that 60 per cent of women drink at [some] time in pregnancy, and 40 per cent are unaware that alcohol could harm the fetus.”
- “Australian women living with poor mental health, high life stress, poverty, housing and legal issues, concurrent drug use and exposure to domestic and family violence and trauma are more likely to use alcohol during pregnancy.”