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 Lives and Adjustment Patterns of Juvenile “Lifers”

Ms Simone Deegan1
1Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia

This project aims to broaden understanding of the challenges faced by juveniles who are processed by the adult system for the offence of murder. While these individuals may initially serve time in a youth facility, this arrangement is destined to be (comparatively) short-lived.  With this in mind, the current research focuses on those life-sentenced juveniles who have since attained 18 years of age and are incarcerated in an adult facility or are on parole in the community. Through semi-structured interviews, features of their childhood that may explain, though not justify, their subsequent criminal actions will be explored as well as more recent attempts to negotiate both juvenile and adult prison environments and or parole/community re-entry.

The chief concept underpinning this research is change: specifically, the capacity and proclivity of young male (ex)prisoners to meaningfully attenuate the pains of imprisonment and “spoiled identity” which are inextricably linked to a life sentence in order to plan positively for their futures.  Interviews with nominated significant others (i.e. parent, grandparent, sibling, friend, partner etc.) will document the circumstances associated with the intensification of serious offending in each young person’s life. It will also identify the commitment they have towards supporting the prisoner in their quest to build a positive future and how this may fluctuate over a long or indeterminate sentence.


Simone has worked in the criminal justice system for 13 years as a criminal lawyer and as project officer on the (completed) project Generativity in Young Male (ex)Prisoners: Caring for Self, Other and Future within Prison and Beyond with Professor Mark Halsey. Their book, Young Offenders: Crime, Prison and Struggles for Desistance was published in 2015. Her interest is in young people, violent crime and the prison.

Psycho-educational prospects for students in custody

Tim Corcoran1, Julie White2, Kitty Te Riele3, Alison Baker2, Philippa Moylan2
1School Of Education, Deakin University, Burwood, Australia, 2Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia, 3University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

Past research has established the critical importance of education to the lives of young people involved in justice processes. This paper overviews research recently undertaken in the Victorian youth justice system. The purpose of the project was to examine education for students in custody, both sentenced and on remand. The study worked with project partner, Parkville College, to examine how education can be improved for young people by investigating: i) what assists young people to take part in education while they are in custody, and ii) what helps young people to plan for education after release from custody? The paper starts by outlining present-day arrangements at the Parkville and Malmsbury Youth Justice Precincts and how these enable and/or constrain participation in schooling whilst in detention. This sets the context for the interviews undertaken with young people. Amongst other purposes, education should be about the pursuit of justice (i.e. fairness and equity) and if accepted as an ontological opportunity then education can invite the pursuit of a particular kind of justice – psychosocial justice. Subsequently, psycho-educational theory and practice is inextricably linked to issues of justice, both in how theory is invoked and in the ways practice is enacted. This orientation invites critical reconsideration of a range of activities in formal and informal educational settings with the young people’s interviews illustrating the complex and unfinished nature of relationality made available through education.

Tim Corcoran practiced for a decade as a Psychologist in two Queensland government departments (Education and Corrective Services) and brings a rich array of knowledge, skills and expertise to his ongoing research activities. His work has involved teaching, research and professional practice in Australia, the UK, Singapore and Iraq.  He edited Psychology in education: Critical theory~practice (2014, Sense Publishers), an international collection of contributions examining critical approaches to educational psychology.  More recently he co-edited Disability studies: Educating for inclusion (2015, Sense Publishers), Joint action: Essays in honour of John Shotter (2016, Routledge) and Critical Educational Psychology (2017, Wiley).

Improving the management of young people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and other brain impairments in an Australian detention centre

Hayley Passmore1,3, Raewyn Mutch1,2,3, Sharyn Burns4, Guy Hall5, Jonathan Carapetis1, Carol Bower1
1Telethon Kids Institute, Subiaco, Australia, 2Department of Health Western Australia, Perth, Australia, 3The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia, 4Curtin University, Perth, Australia, 5Murdoch University, Perth, Australia

Health and justice professionals across Australia are urging for an increase in services to better support young people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and other brain impairments involved with the justice system. Knowledge of FASD among young people sentenced to a period of detention is increasing, with a prevalence study ascertaining that 36% of young people sentenced to detention have FASD, and 89% are severely impaired in at least one domain of brain function. However, to date there has been no investigation into the capacity of custodial staff to identify and manage young people in Australian detention centres with FASD or similar impairments, nor have there been published interventions aiming to develop environments appropriate for those with FASD in detention.

The current knowledge and practices relating to FASD and other brain impairments among the custodial workforce at the only youth detention centre in Western Australia were determined using mixed methods. These data informed the development and evaluation of training resources (a series of short, educational videos) aiming to upskill the custodial workforce in the management strategies most appropriate for young people in detention with such impairments. The efficacy of these training resources will be discussed, with particular relevance to improving staff knowledge and awareness of impairments, and their receptiveness to adapting management strategies according to the needs of young people in their care.

Given the high rates of impairment among young people in detention in Australia, all staff involved in the care of detained young people should receive comprehensive training about FASD and other brain impairments and appropriate management strategies.

Hayley Passmore is a PhD Candidate at the Telethon Kids Institute and School of Paediatrics and Child Health, The University of Western Australia. Hayley has qualifications in Criminology and Psychology. She has previous experience working with adult offenders and their families, and with vulnerable children and families across Western Australia. Hayley currently works in the Alcohol, Pregnancy and FASD research group at the Telethon Kids Institute, and is in the final year of her PhD on the workforce development component of the NHMRC funded project titled ‘A feasibility study of screening, diagnosis and workforce development to improve the management of youth with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the justice system’. Hayley also teaches Criminology units at the School of Law, Murdoch University.


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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