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Kalgoorlie MLA, Wendy Duncan, is today helping raise awareness of the importance of not consuming alcohol during pregnancy through promoting International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day.

FASD Awareness Day is recognised on the 9th day of the 9th month each year, highlighting the importance of preventing the disorder by not drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Ms Duncan said that FASD is an umbrella term used to describe a spectrum of conditions that arise from prenatal alcohol exposure and can include physical, developmental and/or neurobehavioural disabilities. It is widely recognised as the most common preventable cause of birth defects and brain damage in children.

Ms Duncan has had a keen interest in FASD for many years, realising what a strong issue it was when meeting with June Oscar from the Lililwan (all of the little ones) Project in Fitzroy Valley.

The Project, which was established in 2010 when Ms Duncan was Member for Mining and Pastoral Region, was a world first whole of population study of the effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It reported that one in eight school-age children in the Fitzroy Valley had foetal alcohol syndrome.

Since then, progress has been made with the implementation of an Australian Diagnostic Instrument, developed by an Australian FASD Collaboration which was led by Professor Carol Bower from Telethon Kids Institute and Professor Elizabeth Elliott from the University of Sydney which will provide clinicians with a diagnostic criteria for FASD.

“Having this diagnostic criteria to refer to will significantly assist clinicians to deliver a more accurate account of an individual’s situation with regards to FASD,” Ms Duncan said.

“The high incidence of FASD is a silent epidemic with many mothers not realising that the greatest damage can be done before they even know they are pregnant. It is not confined to one section of the population.”

With little specific assistance readily available for families, friends and professionals to adequately address the needs of an individual diagnosed with FASD, problems at school and in the home emerge with many finding themselves caught up in the justice system over time.

“The message from me today to women planning on having a baby is stop drinking alcohol when you stop the pill, or at least when you become aware that you are pregnant, and remember that during pregnancy not drinking alcohol is the safest option for you and your unborn child.”

For media enquiries contact Wendy Duncan MLA on 0438 782 034