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For further information on our project, or to get in touch with the research team, please contact Noni Walker.


Hayley M Passmore,  Roslyn Giglia, Rochelle E Watkins, Raewyn C Mutch, Rhonda Marriott, Carmela Pestell, Stephen R Zubrick, Candice Rainsford, Noni Walker, James P Fitzpatrick, Jacinta Freeman, Natalie Kippin, Bernadette Safe, Carol Bower. Study protocols for screening and diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) among young people sentenced to detention in Western Australia. BMJ Open 2016,6:e012184.


FASD rates in incarerated youth


  • Professor Carol Bower: Senior Principal Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia
  • Professor Rhonda Marriott: Professor Aboriginal Health and Well Being, Murdoch University
  • Dr Rochelle Watkins: Senior Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia
  • Associate Professor Raewyn Mutch: Clinical Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia
  • Dr James Fitzpatrick: McCusker Clinical Research Fellow in Aboriginal Child Health, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia
  • Associate Professor Carmella Pestell: Director Robin Winkler Clinic, School of Psyhology, The University of Western Australia
  • Professor Steve Zubrick: Senior Principal Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia
  • Mr Peter Collins: Director Legal Services, Aboriginal Legal Aid WA
  • Professor Jonathan Carapetis: Director, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia

Project Staff

  • Noni Walker, Senior Research Officer
  • Jacinta Freeman, Research Officer
  • Sharynne Hamilton, Research Officer (Qualitative)
  • Carmen Condon, Research Officer (Data)
  • Hayley Passmore, Research Assistant and PhD Candidate

Clinical Team

  • Dr Raewyn Mutch, Paediatrician
  • Dr Emma Argiro, Paediatrician
  • Natalie Kippin, Speech Pathologist
  • Bernadette Safe, Occupational Therapist
  • Candy Cheung, Vicki Bothma, Helen Shield, Jasmine Taylor and Alex Springall, Psychologists

We will:

  • implement the screening-diagnosis and workforce development interventions within the Banksia Hill Detention Centre, which is the only detention centre in WA for offenders aged between 10 and 17 years
  • build the capacity of Banksia Hill staff to implement best practice interventions in the identification and management of youth with FASD
  • facilitate improved support for youth with FASD during detention and following their release into the community
  • evaluate a range of implementation planning indicators including need, feasibility, acceptability, cost and resource implications.  

Partnerships are vitally important as the project connects with the Department of Corrective Services, the Department of Child Protection and Family Services, young people in detention, their families and communities. After extensive planning and preparation, recruitment began in May 2015 among young people who have been sentenced at Banksia Hill Detention Centre, in Canning Vale, the only centre in WA for detainees aged between 10 and 17 years.

Young people at Banksia Hill who chose to participate were interviewed by the project research assistant and were assessed by a paediatrician, psychologist, occupational therapist and speech pathologist to provide information that may identify FASD or other conditions or impairments. A report for each young person assessed provided assessment findings, a provisional diagnosis if identified, their individual strengths and difficulties with recommendations for improved management strategies for the young person and referrals if appropriate. Discussion of this information with the young person and their parent / guardian / carers aimed to facilitate improved support for young people with FASD and other impairments during detention and in the community following their release.

Exploring how the recommended strategies match with existing communication and management pathways at Banksia Hill and with professional development and training is underway in the workforce development component of the project. Teachers, custodial officers and other staff at the Banksia Hill Detention Centre and educators at the WA Corrective Services Academy are generously sharing their experience and expertise.

Assessment of young people at Banksia Hill Detention Centre was completed a the end of 2016 and the research data are currently being analysed. The outcomes of the research will establish the first Australian estimate of FASD among young people in detention. Examination of the data will determine whether a FASD screening tool appropriate for use among young people entering juvenile detention in Australia is feasible.

  • The rates of incarceration of individuals with FASD in Australia or how to effectively intervene with youth with FASD in the justice setting are unknown.
  • There are currently no mechanisms to effectively and efficiently identify individuals with FASD in the justice system, there is no information on the scale of the issue, and no evidence for effective strategies to manage and rehabilitate offenders and decrease the rate of reoffending.
  • There have been many calls to action and we are responding to those calls.
  • The outcomes of this research will contribute to the understanding of factors which influence the overrepresentation of Aboriginal youth in the criminal justice system, and directly identify opportunities for changes to policy and practice to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals with FASD, as well as improve community health and justice outcomes.
  • Given the considerable resources expended in the management of youth in juvenile detention (WA Treasury estimates $645 per person per day), improved identification and management of individuals with FASD in the justice system has the potential to be cost-effective and improve wellbeing through the provision of services and support more appropriate to their needs.
  • Project outcomes will have immediate implications for the management of individuals with FASD in detention environments and the broader criminal justice system, and all intervention resources developed will be made available for use nationally.