A new report on Indigenous alcohol use recommends to recognise FASD as disability in Australia. The report entitled “Alcohol: hurting people and harming communities” by the Standing committee says Indigenous children fall through cracks of the education system and later land in prison as FASD is misdiagnosed or not treated.
A significant number of Aboriginal children are falling through the cracks of the education system and later often ending up in prison because foetal alcohol syndrome is not recognised as a disability in Australia, a national report on alcohol use in Aboriginal communities has found.
The House of Representatives standing committee report recommends foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) be formally recognised as a disability for the purpose of welfare benefits and providing teachers’ aides, and recognised as a cognitive impairment for the purposes of criminal culpability.
The report also recommends governments adopt a justice reinvestment strategy in predominantly Indigenous communities as a more effective way to keep people out of prison and reduce intergenerational alcohol abuse.
Currently, FASD is not listed as a condition that qualifies for extra teaching support. Teaching support is offered for children with a mild intellectual disability – an IQ of between 55 and 70 – but children with FASD often fall just outside that range.
Outside school, children with FASD are more likely to come into contact with the justice system and are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. The lack of appropriate treatment options is frequently causing unjust solutions, such as in the case of Rosie Fulton, a 25-year-old Aboriginal woman who spent two years in a Kalgoorlie jail after being declared unfit to stand trial because of mental impairment caused by FASD.
Amnesty International also recommended a justice reinvestment approach and recognised FASD as a disability in a recent report on youth imprisonment, which found that Aboriginal children were 26 times more likely to spend time behind bars than non-Indigenous children.