Conference Highlights the 2nd Australian FASD Conference 2018: Our Science, Our Stories

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Lindsay Wolfson

Lindsay Wolfson, MPH

Lindsay is a Research Coordinator at the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health and a consultant at the Canada FASD Research Network. She holds a Master of Public Health, Social Inequities and Health, from Simon Fraser University. Lindsay is responsible for research and collaboration on projects relating to the operationalization of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder prevention, and the integration of gender-, trauma- and equity-informed approaches into policy and research.

On November 21 and 22, 2018, FASD Research Australia Centre of Research Excellence hosted the 2nd Australasian Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Conference (FASD2018) in Perth, Australia. The conference brought together individuals from research, practice, policy, and the community to share their knowledge and perspectives on a range of FASD-related topics including prevention, screening and diagnosis, education, justice, parent and caregiver support, and management strategies.

The two-day conference included plenary presentations on current policy and practice of FASD in Australia, the global prevalence of prenatal alcohol consumption and FASD, a caregiver panel, and developing an integrated approach to FASD. However, the conference also provided unique opportunities for cross-national engagement, a focus on prevention, and opportunities to identify and share decolonizing, reconciliatory, and wellness approaches for FASD prevention, intervention, and support.

Cross-National Engagement

Australia and Canada’s similar colonial past and present and similar approaches to FASD prevention and intervention provide unique opportunities for cross-national learning and engagement. Opportunities for engagement will be furthered in the next three years through the Memorandum of Understanding between the Canada FASD Research Network and FASD Research Australia Centre of Research Excellence, which was signed during the conference.


Audrey McFarlane, Executive
Director for CanFASD, and
Professor Carol Bower, Director for
FASD Research Australia, signing
the MOU.

Focus on Prevention

There was a strong emphasis on prevention research findings and approaches. Research from the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education in Australia highlighted that, similar to in Canada, women are given inconsistent information from health care providers and want clear and concrete resources and consistent messaging from providers to reduce their substance use. Lessons from the Centre of Excellence of Women’s Health were shared on how health and social service providers can engage in honest, collaborative, non-judgemental conversations with women, girls, and their support networks, and examples from New Zealand’s Don’t Know, Don’t Drink campaign highlighted fun and exciting ways to encourage women to stop drinking if there is any chance that they could be pregnant.

Decolonization, Reconciliation, and Wellness

There is a strong relationship between colonization and FASD prevalence. The conference highlighted the need for Indigenous approaches to FASD prevention, intervention, and management in sessions on Indigenous women’s health and supporting rural and remote communities. This focus included the need for trauma-informed, wellness, integrated care approaches as well as the adoption of Indigenous research methodologies when working in/with Indigenous communities. In addition to what was shared in concurrent sessions, Dr. Michelle Stewart led a lunch discussion on opportunities for delegates from Australia, Canada, and New Zealand to conceptualize what decolonizing FASD does, and can, look like across delegates’ countries and sectors.

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