Understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: A guide for justice professionals

What is this research about?

Our previous research on FASD knowledge, attitudes and practice of justice professionals in WA identified:

  • what information is required
  • how this information should be delivered


The purpose of this project is to translate this research into a FASD educational intervention for justice professionals so that they can:

  • Identify the factors which may prompt consideration of FASD
  • Use this knowledge in their representation of children with FASD or suspected FASD who engage with the justice system as accused, victims or witnesses
  • Apply the this information knowledge to inform decision making with respect to bail, parole, orders, detention and programs for release


Ethics Approval

We will ensure that the work and research we do does not harm others and that the people who participate in the project are treated with respect.


Ethics approval helps to ensure that research complies with established guidelines such as the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research


Approval for this project has been granted by the University of Western Australia Health Research Ethics Committee.



This project is funded by the Western Australian Department of the Attorney General Criminal Property Confiscation Grants Program.


Who is conducting this research?



  • Ms Heather Jones: Manager FASD Projects, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia
  • Dr Raewyn Mutch: Paediatrician and Senior Clinical Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia
  • Dr Rochelle Watkins: Senior Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia
  • Professor Carol Bower: Senior Principal Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia


Steering Group

A Steering Group will be established to advise and collaborate with researchers in conducting the project. Representatives from the following organisations will be sought to participate on the Steering Group:

  • Department of the Attorney General - non judicial officer
  • Children's Court magistrate
  • Commissioner for Children and Young People
  • Aboriginal Legal Service/Legal Aid/Aboriginal Lawyers Committee
  • Legal Practice Board/Law Society
  • Community representatives: Aboriginal person, young person with FASD, and parent or carer of young person with lived experience of engagement with justice system



What will we be doing?

We will develop, implement and evaluate educational resources to build the capacity of justice professionals to execute best practice interventions for young people with or suspected of having FASD. The resources developed in WA will be available for adaptation and use in other jurisdictions.


In collaboration with the Steering Group we will develop:

  • educational videos explaining FASD and its effects on young people
  • companion legal commentary to explain implications for the legal system
  • FASD and Justice Continuing Professional Development (CPD) module
  • updates for the FASD section of Chapter 4 "People with Disabilities" in the Equality before the Law: Bench Book
  • presentations for conferences and seminars
  • FASD and Justice website



Benefits of this research

Recognition of a young person's cognitive strengths and weaknesses as early as possible in their interactions with the justice system (as alleged offender, victim or witness) will enable:

  • better communication, understanding and consideration of their social and educational histories and risk and protective factors and social and educational histories
  • strategies and practices suited to their needs of young people with FASD
  • support services and assistance for to victims of crime, young people with FASD or suspected FASD, and orders and sentencing that may reduce offending and re-offending patterns and incidence
  • enhanced community safety and provide support for victims who have or may have with FAS



For further information please contact Heather Jones