NT Legislative Assembly Committee leads the nation in its FASD report

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress welcomes the report of the NT Legislative Select Committee on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)i, which shows a comprehensive understanding of the issues in the broader public health context.

“It is really significant to have a parliamentary report whose authors grasp the need for public health measures for the whole community, as well as for pregnant women and their children,” said Congress CEO Donna Ah Chee.

We know that FASD causes permanent changes to a child’s brain. Whilst early detection may reduce the risk of adverse long-term effects, we must act early, even before women realise they are pregnant if these terrible conditions are to be prevented. We need to reduce excessive consumption of alcohol by all – women and men alike.

“The report gives formal acknowledgement to key alcohol policies that Congress has advocated for many years including a ‘floor’ or Minimum Unit Price (MUP) on take-away alcohol set at the cost of full-strength beer, currently around $1.30 per standard drink. This is the first time any NT Government report has recognised the importance of this key public health strategy and it is very welcome,” said Ms Ah Chee.

“Another recommendation is the need for effective pregnancy and early childhood programs so that all children can maximise their potential, including those who are exposed to alcohol both in pregnancy and in the early years after birth. Parental support programs such as the Nurse Family Partnership program are recommended for wider implementation, as well as the Abecedarian Educational Day Care approach that works directly with children.

“Too many reports acknowledge the need to address early childhood but fail to say exactly what needs to be done. I really commend the courage of this Committee.”

Last week the Foundation for Alcohol Research (FARE) released a report into alcohol’s impact on children and families. The Hidden Harm, launched by Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, further reinforces the issues that Congress put to the NT Select Committee, of which it has clearly taken note.

“It’s obvious that being raised in an alcohol-fuelled unpredictable, chaotic and frightening household is very deleterious to children. It affects their education, development and general well-being, and it certainly increases the likelihood of health problems. The Select Committee members have understood the significance of all of this,” said Ms Ah Chee.

The report also recommends other population-wide measures to reduce alcohol consumption and harm, including point of sale supply reduction measures such as the police Temporary Beat Locations (TBLs).

“Since the recent reduction in TBL coverage in Alice Springs we have seen an increase in access to grog, and consequent drunken behaviour. This has put a strain on all emergency services. The harm to young children from this is preventable. If the TBLs are not fully enforced then they must be replaced with the use of photo ID at the point of sale to get the same result. For the sake of our kids we cannot afford to go backwards on this supply reduction strategy,” Ms Ah Chee continued.

The report also recommends improved treatment services including special services for children with FASD.

“This report could prompt a real change in the struggle to address alcohol and one of its most serious effects – FASD. I congratulate and applaud the courage of this Select Committee and urge the government to implement all of the recommendations,” Ms Ah Chee concluded.

Read the report