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Rotary Australia Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Project

30 May 2018

The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) project is sponsored by Rotary Clubs in Western Australia (WA) with the Rotary Club of Osborne Park being the primary leader Club. It aims to diagnose and treat children who present with FASD in the remote Goldfields region; and to encourage the emergence of natural support networks & preventative strategies within isolated communities to reduce alcohol consumption.

The condition affects many people, especially those experiencing poverty and other life challenges. FASD is a condition that causes permanent physical, cognitive, behavioural, and neuro-developmental disabilities.

Children’s families, carers and support services have huge pressures placed on them because affected children have learning issues and they are difficult to manage with problematic socialization abilities and skills.  When they become adolescents and adults many acquire anti-social behaviours and spend much time in justice and mental health services (one WA study of a Juvenile detention centre identified 33% of inmates as having FASD).

As an adult they find it difficult to effectively sustain relationships and be a parent, and experience a shorter life expectancy.

A pilot study over 8-years, in the remote Fitzroy Valley in the North-East of Western Australia successfully decreased alcohol consumption from 65% to 15% for Aboriginal (First Nations People) & non-indigenous pregnant women. In this study 19% of new-borns were diagnosed with FASD. The intervention model was unique because it crossed traditional service boundaries. It co-ordinated community, health, education, police, justice & welfare services to achieve results.

The model needs to be replicated with a different remote community (i.e. different indigenous languages groups, with some having different occupations) to ascertain whether the positive outcome in Fitzroy related to the project strategies or the enthusiasm of the people implementing it - and whether the service model can with small modifications, be applicable across communities.

Western Australian Rotary Clubs are partnering with Dr James Fitzpatrick, who is a Paediatrician, world leader in FASD, developer of a reliable and professionally recognised diagnostic methodology for identifying FASD in in many permutations, and leader and designer of the successful Fitzroy Valley pilot.

Rotary Australia plan to pilot the project in the remote town of Leonora where many professional people have reported what is apparently a high incidence of the condition. 

Rotary’s plan is to diagnose and support up to 160 children with FASD and their families. Community participation (including the employment of a local Aboriginal) is a key part of the plan. 

If successful in this community, then it can be expanded to other Goldfields communities.

The Rotary in Western Australia pilot project will operate for two years at a cost of $525,000.

No Government funding is available for this preventative initiative.

The project was launched in June 2017 and Rotary has successfully raised 80% of the projected budget. Rotary District 9455 has three International Rotary Partners but we are still short of some cash from international providers and within our State.

The likely outcomes and benefits of the project are:

-  increased awareness that focuses community and service provider attention on preventing FASD,

-  diagnosis that generates community and service provider “wrap-around” and “whole-of-community” initiatives to prevent FASD,

-  the development of early intervention treatment and management strategies to minimize the impact of FASD on children with this condition, and parents/carers, unaffected siblings and communities,

and

-  an independent evaluation that confirms the applicability (or applicability with modifications) of the model.

The Rotary Club of Osborne Park is still seeking support from other organisations. The below link contains contact information should anyone be willing to help Rotary in this regard.

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