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Employment resources paves the way for successful reintegration of people with FASD post-incarceration

A WA team of researchers and clinicians is offering hope to people with Fetal Alcohol spectrum Disorder (FASD) and justice involvement by providing resources specifically designed to help gain and retain employment after release.

Lead researcher Dr Annabelle Nankoo, clinical psychologist registrar and former research officer at UWA, explains the importance of employment support for this demographic, and the aims of this latest research.

FASD: Over-represented and under-supported in the justice system 

People with FASD are over-represented in the justice system.Currently, one in three young people at the Banksia Hill Detention Centre in WA have FASD. These figures are among the highest in the world.

When it comes to finding work, people with FASD and prior justice involvement faces a two-fold increased risk of poor community re-integration post-release.

 “We know that individuals with FASD continue to be over-represented in the justice system. This over-representation is thought to be due to the impact of neurocognitive, social and systemic disadvantage."
-Dr Kirsten Panton, clinical psychologist and researcher at The University of Western Australia.

Dr Kirsten Panton is one of the authors of a recent study reviewing resources currently available for this key demographic.

Along with lead author Dr Annabelle Nankoo (UWA), Dr James Fitzpatrick (Patches) and Associate Professor Carmela Pestell (UWA), the team were able to identify 850 publications internationally that focussed on FASD, employment and justice. Of these, only 16 were found offer specific supports and accommodations to maximise workforce participation. 

This finding led to the development of the FASD Justice Employment Resource last year better tailored to the needs of this demographic.

“It is our desire to better support this re-integration. Individuals with FASD may benefit from receiving employment-related support while they are still in the justice-system,” Said Dr Panton.

Supporting meaningful employment for people with FASD

Only half of Australians with disability currently participate in the workforce and people with FASD are at particular risk of underemployment due to their challenges, as well as discrimination and social stigma.

FASD is a complex neurodisbility that can impact important workplace skills such as cognition, socio-emotional function, executive function, language, and impulse control.  

No two people with FASD are alike, and while individuals can experience a range of difficulties, they can also have a wide spectrum of positive traits.

For Dr Anabelle Nankoo, employers play a critical role in supporting FASD in the workplace by fostering greater awareness and understanding and in recognising the strengths that people with FASD can bring as employees.

“Workplaces could actively inform themselves of what FASD is and of the diverse nature of the condition. The focus should be on identifying the skills, qualities and assets that individuals with FASD can bring to the workplace, with the mindset that those individuals have capabilities and are valuable employees”
– Dr Annabelle Nankoo, clinical psychologist registrar and former research officer at The University of Western Australia.

Employers, justice professionals and others working with people with FASD on their path towards meaningful employment are also encouraged by the resource to make person-centred accommodations and modifications where appropriate.

More info

You can access the new Employment Resources for people with FASD and Justice Involvement here:

You can read the review paper here.