A landmark Top End Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder forum was held in Darwin late last month.
The forum brought together Aboriginal leaders, FASD experts, Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, government representatives, medical professionals, and non-government organisations.
About 180 delegates attended representing 37 organisations across the NT.
FASD is often considered to be a ‘hidden’ disability, because more often than not, the physical characteristics of the individual are not easily recognised.
Instead, an individual may present with learning and behavioural difficulties, which may present for a range of disorders.
As a result, FASD is not easily identified and individuals can go undiagnosed and receive inadequate treatment and support.
The forum heard from the NT Minister for Health and the Attorney General Natasha Fyles, NT Children’s Commissioner, Colleen Gwynne, Professor Elizabeth Elliott, Dr James Fitzpatrick, NOFASD and FASD Hub.
The forum also heard from Aboriginal community controlled organisations Danila Dilba, Wurli Wurlinjang, Anyinginyi Health Services, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory and the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency.
Over two days, the forum delegates discussed the impacts of FASD on individuals, families and communities and acknowledged that alcohol misuse and its consequences are an issue for all Territorians, particularly our most vulnerable.
Delegates also heard the evidence on how the prevalence of FASD impacts many of our services, including health, education and justice.
Delegates learnt that trauma runs deep, and healing and making the right connections is crucial.
The forum delegates agreed that there was an urgent need for action to prevent FASD in our Top End communities, and across the Northern Territory.
It is essential that our responses do not stigmatise women or Aboriginal people. It is important that we don’t lay blame, but instead work together, to support our women and young girls.
Everyone is at risk of FASD, so everyone must be informed the harmful effects of drinking while pregnant. Our men also need to step up and support our mothers, sisters, nieces and partners, to ensure that we give every child the best chance in life.