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Push for national strategy for foetal alcohol disorder

A parliamentary inquiry is generating calls for FASD to be recognised as a disability.

Parents, foster carers, nurses and other health workers who have experience with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders have been urged to tell their story to federal parliament.

A parliamentary committee is investigating the incidence and prevention of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Australia.

"FASD is a hidden epidemic happening right now across Australia," committee chairman Graham Perrett told parliament this week.

"It occurs in all our communities, regardless of socioeconomic or ethnic background."

Some people with FASD had tell-tale facial features but many more sufferers carried no physical sign of their intellectual impairment which included learning difficulties, low IQ, behavioural and socialising problems, organ damage, mental health issues, poor judgment and an inability to understand consequences or the difference between right and wrong.

Australia lacks national awareness of the dangers of alcohol consumption to the unborn child and there are limited diagnostic tools and care strategies for those affected by FASD, Perrett said.

He hopes the outcome of the parliamentary inquiry is the development of a national strategy for the prevention, intervention and management of FASD.

"This strategy should include a nationwide public health campaign, early adoption of an appropriate national diagnostic tool and recognition of FASD as a disability thus allowing carers to access disability support benefits," he said.

"We urge people to make contact now. We need your input."

FASD is the umbrella term for a spectrum of permanent intellectual disorders caused when a foetus is exposed to alcohol in the womb. Perrett said foster carers and families were struggling to provide support for affected children and many children end up in the criminal justice system because of behavioural issues and lack of early intervention.

“Like other disabilities, FASD has an enormous impact on people’s health, independence, education, employment and opportunities in life. Yet FASD is not a recognised disability.”

The committee has already conducted public hearings in Cairns and Townsville, where they heard from remote area nurses and specialist health workers and will now visit other parts of Australia.

Members of the public are also invited to make written submissions which close March 19.

For more information about the inquiry got to: www.aph.gov.au/FASD

AAP

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