INDEPENDENT NEWS

Australian FASD inquiry prompts call to action in NZ

Published: Fri 30 Nov 2012 12:34 PM
Media Release
30th November 2012
Australian FASD inquiry prompts call to action in NZ
Alcohol Healthwatch calls on the New Zealand Government to take note of the Parliamentary inquiry into Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in Australia, and to action the 19 recommendations set out in the resulting report in New Zealand.
Following its inquiry the Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee of the Australian Parliament released its report in Parliament yesterday. The report recognises the devastating effects of FASD on Australian society, and the importance of responding more effectively and with urgency. It addresses issues such as alcohol warning labels; current drinking guidelines; FASD awareness; diagnostic services; and Government support for people with FASD. The report also contains recommendations for a national strategy to prevent, diagnose and manage FASD.
Alcohol Healthwatch Director Rebecca Williams welcomes the report and says it demonstrates the scope and intensity of a preventable tragedy, and that at least the Australian Government is willing to confront this issue. “We have been calling for more to be done in New Zealand to prevent the permanent brain damage to babies exposed to alcohol before birth and greater support for those affected for years now. However, it’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion and being powerless to intervene,” says Ms Williams.
Williams says even the most basic of strategies, such as the provision of information on the product itself warning of the risks of drinking during pregnancy, has yet to be achieved. However, in its report the Committee calls for immediate action on labelling, including that it’s on the agenda of an upcoming meeting of the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulations in December. Their report exposes the complete inadequacies of the alcohol industry’s voluntary labelling response, and recommends that the Government determine the appropriate format and design of labels by 1 March 2013, in preparation for mandatory implementation.
The Australian FASD inquiry puts the FASD issue front and centre and demands affirmative action from the Government there. However, it remains to be seen if Government’s either side of the Tasman will step up and act on the recommendations, says Williams. “We remain forever hopeful that common sense will prevail, however we’re not holding our breath.”
Additional information:
The Australian Inquiry into FASD can be viewed at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=spla/fasd/index.htm

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