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Leading Clinician Researcher and Lived Experience Advocate honoured in FASD Awards 2024

Professor Elizabeth Elliott and Jessica Birch

Professor Elizabeth Elliott (L) and Jessica Birch (R)

The winners of the 2024 FASD Awards have been announced, with Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM awarded the Sue Miers Lifetime Achievement Award, and Jessica Birch awarded the Heather Jones Community Award. 

Announced in the final session of The FASD Forum ‘24 hosted by NOFASD Australia, the awards were created to recognise those who have gone above and beyond to contribute to building awareness and understanding of FASD and alcohol harms in Australia. 

Professor Elliott, Chair of the FASD Hub Australia, Distinguished Professor in Paediatrics & Child Health at The University of Sydney, Consultant Paediatrician for the Sydney Children's Hospital Network, and Member of the Order of Australia for service to paediatrics and health, was honoured with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement award after more than 40 years working as a clinician, researcher, and advocate. 

“I really am grateful to Sue Miers and to Carol Bower who have been both mentors and role models as well as over many decades becoming good friends,”

Professor Elizabeth Elliott said upon receiving the award.

The winner of the 2024 Heather Jones Community Award, Jessica Birch, is a 38-year-old artist, graphic designer, advisor, advocate, and person living with FASD. Jessica says that the diagnosis, which she received five years ago, changed her life, and she has since gone on to become a powerful voice raising awareness of FASD nationally and internationally.

“I'm really honoured and I'm deeply grateful and honestly quite surprised. And this recognition is profoundly meaningful to me, not least because it's not a participation award, but one based on merit and value.

“And I think it's really important that people understand that, living with undiagnosed FASD meant that much of my teenage and adult life I was in deep despair. I was confused, depressed, dysfunctional, physically ill, and I really was unable to move forward in a meaningful way.

“So, to be doing this work, and to be recognized in this way, there's just no words - and too many words - to express how this makes me feel. I know that this is a turning point for me in how I view myself and the contributions that I can make to the world,”

Jessica said upon receiving her award.


Jessica Birch Acceptance Speech


Heather Jones Award

About the Sue Miers Lifetime Achievement Award

This prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award was established by the FASD Research Australia NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence and was first presented at the second Australasian FASD Conference in 2018. It was intended to recognise and celebrate a person who has made an outstanding and sustained contribution to the field of FASD and/or alcohol use in pregnancy on a local, national or international level. 

In 2018, the inaugural recipient, Sue Miers, was presented with the prestigious award in recognition of her over 20 years of work supporting families and driving recognition of FASD in Australia. Inspired by her own personal experience caring for a child with FASD and struggling to find information, resources and services in Australia, Sue founded NOFASD Australia in 1999. 

In 2020, the award was given to Emeritus Professor Carol Bower, Co-founder of the FASD Hub and an internationally recognised public health researcher who has dedicated her career to working in birth defects and aiming to improve maternal and child health.

About the Heather Jones Community Award

The Heather Jones Community Award celebrates the otherwise unsung heroes of the FASD community. The Award is named for its inaugural recipient, Heather Jones, former Senior Manager of the FASD Hub, and reflects her unerring dedication towards leading positive change, mentoring others, raising awareness and improving understanding of FASD.

Heather began working at the Telethon Kids Institute from 2010 as a member of the project team undertaking development work on the diagnostic instrument for FASD. She was appointed as the FASD Hub’s Senior Program Manager in 2016. Under Heather’s stewardship, the FASD Hub website officially launched on FASD Awareness Day in 2017. Through her sustained efforts over the years, the Hub has continued to grow to become one of the leading sources for FASD information nationally. Above all, Heather was an advocate for and a friend to many with lived experience of FASD.