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Newcastle FASD prevention 

A communique from Newcastle CDAT Chair Tony Brown. 

On 11 December 2014, a broad and representative cross section of Newcastle based public, private and community organisations and individuals united to initiate the development, implementation and evaluation of a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (“FASD” – that includes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) integrated response strategy for our city and surrounds.

The meeting (initiated by Newcastle CDAT) was opened by the Hon. Dr Sharman Stone MP Chairperson of the House of Representatives, Standing Committee, Indigenous Affairs.

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The meeting with the assistance of expert advice from the Chair of the National FASD Technical Network Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM, noted that FASD were the most common non-genetic cause of birth defects and a range of permanent physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities that are primarily preventable. They agreed that a proportionate coordinated response to address alcohol use in pregnancy and FASD was required from all local stakeholders and all levels of government.

The meeting enabled participants to achieve a better collective understanding of the risk and impact that drinking during pregnancy was having on Newcastle families and the community. This was assisted with input from NOFASD – Adelle Rist. Such risks were heightened with historical unacceptably high levels in the region of the dangerous oversupply, promotion and consumption of alcohol.

The participants agreed to collaborate and consider committing appropriate levels of resources to develop and implement a local strategy to address FASD and related harms. The strategy will integrate the three streams of prevention and education, diagnosis and treatment and, life-long community support for those diagnosed with FASD and their family members and carers.

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As a first step, it was agreed that a multi-agency/community working group chaired by the Newcastle CDAT would convene to progress the holistic development of the strategy – key elements of which were determined during the meeting’s workshop.

Participants noted the unprecedented reduction in alcohol fuelled violence and subsequent improvement in the local “drinking culture” in Newcastle as a consequence of the adoption in 2008 of evidence based measures supported by the police and the community.

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It concluded that such sustained improvements combined with a strong community commitment, spirit of cooperation, health, education and research expertise; creates a high degree of confidence that Newcastle could once again be recognised and emulated for its leadership in preventing and addressing FASD on a whole community basis.

Tony Brown

Newcastle CDAT Chairperson

11 December 2014