Immediate action urged to help WA children in prison with FASD

Most of these impairments had previously gone undiagnosed at every stage of the children’s journeys through the education, justice and child protection systems.

In 2017, 183 regional WA children were sent to Banksia Hill to await court appearances and were never sentenced.

The Coroner has recommended universal screening for FASD during infant health assessments and upon a child entering into the child protection system or justice system for the first time; and that all children at risk of brain damage due to pre-natal trauma or alcohol exposure be assessed for impairments at one year, and in the year before school starts.

Children identified as cognitively impaired should then receive appropriate treatment and support services.

The reccommendations also included that severe FASD be separately recognised as a disability within the National Disability Insurance Scheme, that the government consider covering FASD treatments under Medicare and that GPs in burdened areas get support to improve diagnosis and services.


The government has as yet issued no official response to the Coroner’s recommendations.

Ms Xamon said the government had lacked focus and urgency in its approach to FASD.

She said the impact of FASD on impulse control, on capacity to regulate emotions and the ability to understand the consequences of their actions made people with the condition more vulnerable to suicide.

«People with FASD have an average life expectancy of only 34 years,» Ms Xamon said.

“The more we learn, the more urgent addressing this crisis becomes.

“This is a no-brainer – prevention is absolutely critical.

“While we have some very successful programs in WA, they are being provided in very limited areas.”

Ms Xamon said the Federal Government’s National FASD Strategic Action Plan, released last year, set out pathways to reducing the impacts of FASD and improving the quality of life of people already living with the condition.

She urged the Government to take heed of the national plan, and to implement the recommendations set out by the Coroner in relation to FASD as a matter of urgency.


«The effect that FASD is having on families and the community is absolutely devastating,» Ms Xamon said.

«In keeping with the Federal plan, the Government must better respond to the needs of individuals with FASD, including therapeutic care for offenders with FASD.

«As an important part of reducing suicide in this state, the Government must demonstrate a strong commitment to addressing FASD.»

Health Minister Roger Cook said the government was taking the matters «extremely seriously» and was examining the coronial inquest recommendations with plans for a «whole-of-government» response to be delivered later this year.

«The grief and pain that each family has been through is more than anyone should have to bear, my sympathies are with all those impacted by these tragic events,» he said.


«These are complex, multi-faceted issues but we are committed to improving the wellbeing of young Aboriginal people in WA.

«There are a number of FASD programs currently operating across the state and the specific recommendations of the coroner relating to FASD will be closely scrutinised by the government to help inform future policy in this area.»

On Wednesday, Premier Mark McGowan released 12 key performance indicators the state government would use to target important issues facing Western Australia.

Emma Young covers breaking news with a focus on science and environment, health and social justice for WAtoday.

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