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Date posted: 3 March 2017
At least one in three young people in detention in Western Australia (WA) suffers from Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), according to findings from an Australian-first study.
Researchers from the Telethon Kids Institute have been investigating the prevalence of the neuro-developmental impairment among detainees at Banksia Hill Detention Centre. It is the first study to assess and diagnose children in an Australian youth custodial facility.
Lead researcher, Carol Bower, said preliminary findings suggested 30 to 40 percent of the young people detained at Banksia Hill had FASD. 'Often these young people have trouble relating cause and effect,' Professor Bower said. 'They can be easily influenced, their memory may not be good, they've often not done well at school...All of those things can really put you in situations where you can get in trouble with the law.'
She said the data gathered over the past two years was extremely important as governments, health experts and the justice system try to grapple with the seemingly high rates of FASD in Western Australia. 'This information is really very useful because you can put in place services that can help overcome some of those difficulties or help manage those difficulties,' Professor Bower said. 'We're hopeful that it might help reduce their engagement with the law after release from Banksia Hill.'
Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis said the findings confirmed what he has long suspected. 'FASD is a major social and mental health issue that must be tackled at its source - before these kids are born - not after the damage is done.'
The Telethon Kids Institute Study is ongoing and is now engaging staff at the correctional facility.
'We are developing educational resources for the staff at Banksia Hill to assist them in managing young people with neuro-developmental abnormalities,' Professor Bower said. 'I'm sure there will be lessons for us to learn from the families, from the young people, from the staff and from the community that will enrich and aid the recommendations that come from the study.'