Developing Diversionary Pathways for Indigenous Youth with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD): A Three Community Study in Western Australia

Prof. Harry Blagg1, Dr Tamara Tulich2
1University of Western Australia , Crawley, Australia, 2University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia

This paper 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 high risk populations internationally and there were concerns that youths with FASD were being enmeshed in the justice system. Further, under WA law they were at risk of being held in indefinite detention if found unfit to plea. Besides recommending legislative reform we also urge a ‘decolonizing’ approach, meaning maximum diversion into community ‘owned’ and managed structures and processes, able to offer a culturally secure environment for stabilizing children with FASD. The study calls for reform of police diversionary mechanisms and the creation of what we call mobile ‘needs focused’ courts, offering  comprehensive screening rapid entry into on-country, programs and strong Aboriginal community control.


Harry specializes in Indigenous people and criminal justice, young people and crime, family and domestic violence, crime prevention, diversionary strategies, policing and restorative justice.  He has over 20 years experience in conducting high level research with Aboriginal people across Australia (including urban, rural and remote locations) on justice related issues. From 2001/2006 Harry was Research Director of the West Australian Law Reform Commission’s reference: Aboriginal Customary Laws.  He has developed a specific focus on remote communities – particularly in the Kimberly Region of WA and the Northern Territory – and has been involved in research, consultancy and policy development around community justice, FASD, night patrols, men and women’s safe places, youth justice and family violence.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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