Diversionary pathways for Aboriginal youth with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder


This article reports on a study undertaken in three Indigenous communities in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia (WA) intended to develop diversionary strategies for young people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Rates of FASD in the West Kimberley were comparable to those of high-risk populations internationally and there are concerns that youths with FASD are being enmeshed in the justice system. Further, under WA law they are at risk of being held in indefinite detention if found unfit to stand trial. Besides recommending legislative reform, the authors urge a ‘decolonising’ approach, meaning maximum diversion into community owned and managed structures and processes, able to offer a culturally secure environment for stabilising children with FASD. The study calls for reform of police diversionary mechanisms and the creation of mobile ‘needs focused’ courts, offering comprehensive screening and rapid entry into on-country programs with strong Aboriginal community involvement.