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For further information on our project, or to get in touch with the research team, please contact Carol Bower


FASD rates in incarcerated 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

Our project was conducted at Banksia Hill Detention Centre, the only youth detention centre in WA. Young people aged 10 to 17 years can be held at Banksia Hill on remand, or on a sentencing order.

We worked with approximately 100 young people during 2015 – 2016, who voluntarily participated in comprehensive health and neurocognitive assessments.

The assessments were conducted by a paediatrician, a neuropsychology team, a speech pathologist, and an occupational therapist. A research officer conducted interviews with the young people and their circles of care to obtain rich case-histories, including information on prenatal alcohol exposure.

The clinical team met to discuss the results and to develop an assessment and recommendations report for every young person they saw.

Reports included:

  • assessment results
  • strengths and difficulties of the young person
  • recommendations to support and promote the young person’s health and wellbeing, as well as information for referrals to other health specialists where required.

Reports were shared with the young people using simple verbal and written language, as well as with their family/caregivers.

Where consent was given, the reports were also provided to Youth Justice Services to enrich their care and management while in detention, and to inform plans for the young person’s transition back to community.

Secondary aims

  • A workforce development initiative that aims to support staff in caring for young people with neurodevelopmental impairments has also been developed and implemented, and is currently being evaluated.
  • Qualitative evaluation of this project has occurred. The study found young people who participated in the prevalence study valued the assessments, particularly receiving knowledge of their individual strengths. Data continue to be analysed for other participants and results will be available in the near future.
  • Development and evaluation of a FASD screening tool. The data collected are being analysed to assess whether a simple and useful screening tool can be identified for use in the justice system.


Publications from this research

There have been multiple articles related to this project published between 2016 and 2020. You can find these publications on the FASD Hub.


Other research related to the Banksia project

There is currently one PhD candidate continuing work using data from the Banksia Hill Detention Centre project:

Communication, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and youth justice

Two PhD and one Masters student have submitted and passed the requirements for their award:

Young people in detention in Western Australia: An examination of motor skills and the effect of prenatal alcohol exposure

Talking, Hearing, Understanding, Knowling: A qualitative exploration of the experiences of justice-involved youth undergoing assessment for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in a juvenile detention centre

Improving the management of young people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in detention

Our research has received national and international recognition for identifying that 1 in 3 young people in youth detention in WA are living with FASD, the highest known estimate among justice-involved youth world-wide. Our study also revealed that 9 out of 10 young people in detention are living with at least one severe impairment in a neurodevelopmental domain.

Findings have, and will continue to contribute to the understanding of the broad range of factors which influence contact with the law, youth justice services and incarceration for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth.

Our team are using the research findings to help influence policy and practice of how Youth Justice and related services work with, and support young people in their care. We inform future program and service delivery, which will help to build evidence-based programs and services for young people in youth justice living with FASD or other impairments in a range of neurodevelopmental domains.

Our research project aligns with the WA 2015-2018 Youth Justice Framework, building the evidence base to support transformational change through a greater understanding among the Youth Justice workforce, and in the implementation of person-centred care. It is also building future capacity of Child Protection and Family Support staff in their therapeutic care for young people in WA involved with the Youth Justice Services.

Given the considerable resources expended in the management of youth in WA juvenile detention (around $1,00 per person per day), improved identification and care of individuals with FASD in the justice system has the potential to be cost-effective and improve wellbeing.