2nd Australasian FASD Conference - Speech







Good morning and welcome.


My name is David Laffan and I am the Assistant Secretary of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Branch of the Commonwealth Department of Health, and this morning I am representing the Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM.


Minister Wyatt was hoping to be here in person today at this very important gathering but he was called to a meeting out of Western Australia and sends his apologies, along with his best wishes for a successful and fruitful conference.


He has asked me to deliver this speech on his behalf, and he looks forward to hearing of your decisions.


I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we’re meeting, the Whadkjuk people of the Noongar Nation, and pay my respects to Elders past and present. 


I welcome the many prominent national and international experts gathered to discuss this critical issue.


I would also like to acknowledge the Chair of the Australian National Advisory Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs, Kay Hull, and other members of the Council.


I thank and acknowledge conference co-Chairs Professor Carol Bower and Professor Elizabeth Elliott, for their work in bringing this event together.


When turning his mind to FASD and its associated problems the Minister approaches it with mixed emotions.


Sadness – because the story of FASD in this country is a tragic one. It’s an entirely preventable condition. It doesn’t have to happen.


But also hope – because of community driven successes, and the unprecedented support the Australian Government is providing for the fight against the condition.


This offers real, on-the-ground change for the better, for Australian children, mothers, families and communities impacted by this dreadful disorder.


Conferences such as this are also integral to the solution – and the Minister commends the organisers and looks forward to hearing the outcomes of your deliberations.

Your theme “Our science. Our stories” is most apt – because tackling FASD is about listening to people’s stories – their lived experiences as parents, as families, as kids, as communities.


And it’s about utilising the fact that the science and knowledge around FASD is much improved. We know a lot more about it today than we did – and that it’s not about stigmatising mums and children, but about helping them.


Minister Wyatt’s colleague, Health Minister Greg Hunt, has just announced the National FASD Strategic Action Plan.  There are copies ready for you here today and it will be made available online at the Ministerial Drug and Alcohol Forum website.


This is the Government’s plan for the way forward.


It’s how FASD will be tackled across a range of fronts – including prevention, screening and diagnosis, support and management, and priority populations at increased risk of harm.


And, as Minister Hunt mentioned, Minister Wyatt is also pleased to announce more than $7 million in new funding to support projects that align with the new Action Plan’s direction.


There’s $1.47 million for prevention, including new consumer resources and general awareness activities – including a national FASD Awareness Day, translation into a variety of First Nations languages, and promotion of alcohol consumption guidelines, and point of sale warnings.


A further $1.2 million will support new screening and diagnosis activities, which will include reviewing existing tools and developing new systems and referral pathways, to assist professionals in community settings.


$1.2 million goes to management and support activities, including tailored resources for people working in the education, justice and police sectors


A further $1.27 million will help in the development of targeted resources, to meet local cultural and community needs.


And finally, $1.55 million will continue existing activities, with support for Australia’s FASD Hub, a one-stop shop containing the FASD Register and public awareness campaign activities.


Importantly, the Strategic Action Plan also establishes an expert FASD Advisory Group which will report to the National Drug Strategy Committee on the progress being made, while promoting successful models and highlighting emerging issues and evidence.


The Australian Government is profoundly committed to reducing the impacts of FASD on individuals, parents, carers and communities.


We need to break down FASD’s link:

-       To problems with the law

-       To family breakdowns

-       To deaths in custody; and

-       To other chronic conditions and suicides.


The reasons why people engage in constant and excessive alcohol consumption are complex.

We are making progress in this area, but there’s still much work to be done.


Harm awareness programs can minimise the danger posed by alcohol misuse. But our broader aim should be to reduce alcohol consumption.


Whatever the approach, one thing is certain – a collaborative effort is essential.


The National FASD Strategic Action Plan launched today owes much to collaboration.  Not only between families and communities, the Australian Government and the states and territories, but between many of you in this room who have helped to shape this important Plan.


There has been a significant amount of stakeholder collaboration in its development – and it identifies a series of priorities and opportunities to inform future approaches by governments, service providers and communities.


FASD is a national problem that requires a national approach, linking in closely with local solutions.


We are acknowledging the scale of the issue in Australia and intensifying efforts to address it.


When local communities, governments and the wide variety of stakeholders join hands, they have great power to effect real and lasting change.


Policies and services that offer national support but reflect local voices and wisdom are more closely owned by the people they serve.


People are empowered, because they’ve been heard, and take responsibility because they’re respected and proud.


Around the nation there are many things that are working and we see programs and services where Aboriginal organisations, Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people are highly successful in the most difficult of circumstances.


As the Minister has said: In Western Australia, we have seen June Oscar and her community’s work in Fitzroy Crossing, which has changed the whole dynamic of buying alcohol and done much to curb the tragedy of FASD in the Fitzroy Valley.


Together, they have turned the town around and you now see strong families there, bound by the glue of love and caring.


Alcohol and the violence and bad behaviour of a few no longer defines Fitzroy Crossing - the strength and the story of the community does.


And the Minister is hopeful that continued collaboration will provide the way forward.


It’s time to acknowledge the scale of the FASD issue in this country and to make a greater effort to address it.


This is what we are doing as a government.


This is what you are doing as a conference.


You, we, all of us, are part of the solution. By working together, we can prevent FASD in Australian communities – protecting future generations and giving children the best start possible.


Thank you.