HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [5.27 pm]: I rise to make a few comments. I asked a question without notice of which some notice had been given during question time. I was following up with the Attorney General about what is happening in response to the report, “When your disability doesn’t fit: ending discrimination against people with FASD in Western Australian law and policy”. That report highlighted the problematic treatment that people who experience cognitive disability receive when they are subjected to the justice system, an issue I talk about quite often in this place. One of the recommendations of the report is to develop a model definition of “cognitive impairment” that includes FASD. I asked what had happened with this recommendation and what progress had been made. I was very disappointed, when I heard the answer, to discover that although the Attorney General is aware of the report, effectively no work has been done in this space. I am very concerned about this.

During question time on 20 February this year, I asked whether the government intended to develop a whole-of-government foetal alcohol spectrum disorder strategy or action plan in the same way that the federal government had done. The response I received from the minister at that point was that the government’s approach to FASD would be developed as part of the response to the coroner’s inquest. I am really concerned about this because the coroner’s inquest was only this year. I have been asking questions about what is happening to deal with FASD, particularly arising out of the Telethon Kids Institute report which painted a really damning picture about what is happening within juvenile justice around the issue of FASD and cognitive impairment. For coming up to two years now, I have been told that everyone is taking responsibility for this and that it is an all-of-government approach because it is such serious business. I can wear that response for the first six months, maybe even the first 12 months, but it is now two years down the track and no plan has been presented. There is no plan to pick up on even some of the more problematic human rights issues arising out of FASD, particularly the intersection with youth justice.

I am particularly concerned that no one minister seems to necessarily be taking primary responsibility for initiating this strategy. I am being told that it is more or less coming out of the Department of Communities. Personally, I think that the Minister for Community Services is a pretty good minister. I recognise that there are some other very capable ministers working with the Minister for Community Services who are ostensibly trying to pull this together, but I have not seen any indication of progress. I am certainly very concerned when I effectively get responses from entire government departments—in this case, the Department of Justice—that say, “No, it does not appear that any clear work is being progressed arising from core reports.”

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a growing issue. We need holistic plans to address it. It cuts across multiple portfolios, so the necessity to ensure an integrated approach across departments is absolutely essential and admirable. I do not want to see efforts that try to ensure an all-of-government approach to this effectively falling through the cracks. On the two-year anniversary of this government, I am getting increasingly concerned that it appears, despite all the commentary to the contrary, that this might be exactly what is beginning to happen. I will keep pursuing this. I really hope that this government is able to release a report sometime soon to talk about how it will move forward on this. A multi-departmental approach is necessary. I am becoming increasingly concerned that important work is not being progressed as I think it should be.


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