Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder study

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Warren Snowdon MP, Minister for Indigenous Health

The first Australian study into the prevalence and impact of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder on Indigenous children will be undertaken in Fitzroy Valley, Western Australia, with the support of a $1 million Gillard Government grant.

For the first time, Australia will have a robust study on the devastating impact of alcohol on Indigenous children and how we can better care for families that are affected by Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

The study, Marulu: The Lililwan Project,was initiated by the Fitzroy Valley community and will pool the expertise of paediatricians, allied health professionals and social workers from the George Institute for International Health, University of Sydney, and the Nindilingarri Cultural Health Service.

This investment builds on the Gillard Government’s launch of a $64 million Indigenous Family Safety Program and a supporting Agenda to help reduce family violence.

A key aim of this Agenda is to tackle alcohol abuse – the primary risk factor in Indigenous family violence – by working with communities to stem the supply of alcohol where it leads to high-levels of alcohol abuse.

Other priorities under the Agenda are to strengthen police protection in remote communities, support community led initiatives that heal trauma and change attitudes, and improve coordination of services to victims, especially children.

The Indigenous Family Safety Program is funded over four years to advance the Agenda’s key priorities, including a heavy focus on building skills within communities to make their own changes.

The Gillard Government will work closely with communities which have high-levels of alcohol abuse and state and territory governments to introduce tough alcohol restrictions or strengthen existing restrictions.

We will push for a transparent model for allocating state and territory police resources as many remote communities have an insufficient police presence.

Funding will also be directed towards developing community safety plans in the Government’s 29 remote priority locations.

The safety plans will cover alcohol, policing, coordinated services to vulnerable families and community attitudes to family violence. The plans will be assessed against best practice evidence in Australia and overseas.

While fewer Indigenous Australians drink alcohol than non-Indigenous Australians, alcohol abuse is a significant issue in Indigenous communities.

A recent study by the Australian Institute of Criminology found that “alcohol is now regarded as one, if not the, primary risk factor for violence in Indigenous communities.”

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can also affect unborn babies, including brain injury and birth defects such as poor bone formation, kidney damage, eye and hearing problems.

Some of the effects of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in children include stunted growth, poor memory, attention deficiency, impulsive behaviour, and mental illness.

The Government congratulates the Fitzroy Valley community, who have led the way on alcohol restrictions, and now want to improve the quality of life for their children by putting a spotlight on this difficult and sensitive issue.

The Australian Government looks forward to supporting other Indigenous leaders around the nation who are campaigning for safer families and communities.

To view a copy of the Indigenous Family Safety Agenda, please visit