Alcohol use in pregnancy is an issue for all Australians.
FASD now has more recognition in Australia as an important, but preventable disorder. Preventing FASD requires a whole of community and government approach.
Organisations and professional groups across Australia contribute to policy development, education and training for health professionals, and contribute to new evidence, knowledge and translation activities.
National FASD Strategy
At the 2nd Australasian FASD Conference in Perth in November 2018 the Minister for Health, The Hon Greg Hunt launched the National FASD Strategy Action Plan 2018 - 2028. The Plan has been developed to provide a clear pathway of priorities and opportunities to improve the prevention, diagnosis, support and management of FASD in Australia.
You can watch a video of this launch and a presentation by Mr David Laffan, Assistant Secretary Department of Health at the FASD conference.
Previous national strategy
The Commonwealth Government developed a FASD Action Plan 2013/14 - 2016/17 in response to the House of Representaitves inquiry into FASD. You can read the final report FASD: The Hidden Harm
Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research
Issues Brief No 28 27 September 2018
Author: Dr Amy Finlay-Jones
Reducing harms related to alcohol use in pregnancy: Policy and practice recommendations
Gilbert + Tobin
Gilbert + Tobin has worked with people affected by FASD, their carers and NGOs in this area for a number of years, with many of these organisations throwing their support behind the need for law and policy reform.
Anne Cregan, Partner, Pro Bono who led G+T’s advocacy efforts, said many people with FASD face significant difficulty in accessing support simply because their disability doesn’t fit the Government’s current definitions.
Gilbert + Tobin is urging governments to conduct a review of law and policy to determine where people with FASD are excluded and to work together with medical professionals and advocates for people with FASD and other forms of cognitive impairment to develop a more inclusive definition of cognitive impairment for use in law and policy.
The policy document was launched in September 2018 in Sydney by Ms June Oscar AO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and in Perth by the recently retired Chief Justice Wayne Martin AC.
When your disability doesn't fit: ending discrimination against people with FASD in New South Wales law and policy
You can read June's speech at the Sydney launch Recognition: A pathway to realising our rights and ending discrimination
When your disability doesn't fit: ending discrimination against people with FASD in Northern Territory law and policy
When your disability doesn't fit: ending discrimination against people with FASD in Victorian law and policy
When your disability doesn't fit: ending discrimination against people with FASD in Western Australian law and policy
You can also read an article about Wayne Martin's speech
When your disability doesn't fit: ending discrimination against people with FASD in Commonwealth law and policy
Alcohol Guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
The NHMRC published the updated Australian Guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol in December 2020. These reflect the most recent and best available evidence on the health effects of alcohol.
Guideline 3 Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- To reduce the risk of harm to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol.
- For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby.
Read more in the Australian Guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol 2020
National Alcohol Strategy 2019 - 2028
A framework to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm. It highlights possible actions at the local, state or territory and national levels.
This national strategy:
- outlines Australia’s agreed approach to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm
- highlights priorities and opportunities for action
- supports government and non-government sectors to work together
- aims to reduce harmful alcohol drinking by 10%
West Australian Alcohol and Drug Interagency Strategy 2018-2022
Government of Western Australia Mental Health Commission
This strategy references FASD in the following sections:
- Key initiatives p39
- Research and development p52
- Workforce development and capacity building p53
Pregnancy warning labels on packaged alcoholic beverages
In October 2018 the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation agreed, based on the evidence, a mandatory labelling standard for pregnancy warning labels on packaged alcoholic beverages should be developed and should include a pictogram and relevant warning statement. The Forum requested Food Standards Australia and New Zealand develop this mandatory labelling standard as a priority.
In July 2020 members of the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation agreed pregnancy warning labels would be mandatory of alcoholic beverages - manufactuers will have three years to implement the 'Pregnancy Warning' label across all alcoholic beverages.
You can find information on this process and read the final report.
State & Territory policies
In December 2018 the Northern Territory Government released a whole of government strategy titled Addressing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in the Northern Territory 2018 - 2024.
Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education
Australian Medical Association
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has developed a position paper on FASD
Royal Australian College of Physicians
The Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) has developed policies on alcohol and advertising
WA Coroners inquest
This 374 page report into the deaths of thirteeen children and young people in the Kimberley region of Western Australia includes references to FASD. The report by the State Coroner Ros Fogliani was published on 7 February 2019.
There is a warning on the report that the contents may be particularly distressing to some readers.
Commonwealth, State & Territory inquiries
Not all enquiries and reports are specific to FASD, however they do refer to FASD and justice in sections or chapters or make reference to people with cognitive and other impairments
Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs Inquiry Indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment in Australia
Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration Access to legal assistance services
Review of the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act 1996
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs Inquiry into harmful use of alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities
Productivity Commission inquiry into accessing justice services
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs
Doing Time - Time for Doing: Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs Inquiry into FASD
FASD: The Hidden Harm - Inquiry into the prevention, diagnosis and management of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
Western Australia Legislative Assembly Education and Health Standing Committee
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: the hidden disability
New South Wales Law Reform Commission
Young people with cognitive and mental health impairments in the criminal justice system. Sydney: Commission NSWLR; 2010-2012.
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory Select Committee on Action to prevent FASD
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) identified FASD as an important category of disability for consideration within the NDIS.
Currently the NDIS only recognises Fetal Alcohol Syndrome under 'Congenital conditions - cases where malformations cannot be corrected by surgery or other treatment and result in permanent impairment.'
NDIA contracted Telethon Kids Institute to conduct a critical review of the available published and unpublished literature relating to impairment and interventions for FASD. A report was submitted to the NDIA in 2016.
The purpose of the review was to describe the types of disability supports, services and interventions that individuals with FASD require across their life course. It is hoped that this information will inform an approach to assessment and documenting impairment associated with FASD that will enable support and intervention planning within the NDIS.
Summary key findings
The report looked at principles relating to assessment, diagnosis and planning interventions for FASD; evidence on functional domains that are impaired in people with FASD across the lifecourse; evidence for interventions to reduce impacts of functional impairment and improve overall quality of life.
The domains of functional impairment associated with FASD diagnosis are significant and distinct to each affected individual. It is established that FASD is a lifelong condition characterised by a range of significant domains of functional impairment, often requiring behavioural modification and environmental accommodation interventions.
FASD is characterised by primary disabilities which are the result of prenatal alcohol exposure. Secondary effects are those disabilities that an individual is not born with but are caused by a lack of appropriate services and supports to address the primary disabilities. Individuals affected by FASD will have varied neurocognitive profiles and the extent of individual impairment may not become apparent until there is formal engagement with education. There is a growing body of evidence on effective interventions to address different aspects of cognitive and behavioural issues associated with FASD, which benefit from exposure to services and supports designed to address these.
While early diagnosis or assessment is optimal to enable early childhood intervention to take place, there are key transitional points along the life course when individuals are likely to benefit from assessment/re-assessment and referral to age appropriate interventions designed to improve daily functioning and participation in education, employment and social opportunities.
While early intervention is optimal, interventions to improve the ability of a person with FASD to function at home, education environment, work or with others in social settings are relevant across the life course.
National Disability Insurance Scheme