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What the Papers Say

Boarding, FASD key to fixing gap

Increasing the availability of boarding facilities and better policies for Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder were among the recommendations of a long-awaited report into indigenous education outcomes.

The inquiry into educational opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students had been running since the previous election and a final report was quietly tabled at the end of last year.

Federal Member for Durack and the former chairwoman of the committee which led the inquiry, Melissa Price, told the Echo she was pleased with its findings.

“We have identified some key issues that we strongly feel need to be addressed, if we are to truly start closing the gap in this area,” she said.

Ms Price said the committee recommended improving boarding facilities for regional and remote students within their own region.

“Local Aboriginal students are generally better off attending a boarding facility that is closer to home,” she said.

Ms Price said another area which needed looking into was improving the cultural awareness and understanding of teachers.

“Currently our regional teachers are often overcome with culture shock when dealing with a classroom of predominately indigenous students who don’t speak English as their first language,” she said.

“Equity of funding between girls and boys (is another issue), as currently Aboriginal boys’ programs receive the lion’s share of funding.” 

Two of the 20 recommendations dealt directly with FASD, calling for a consistent policy across the country for it to be recognised as a disability for school funding.

Once this is done, the committee said a FASD screening and management program should be set up in the States and Territories.

A study in the Fitzroy Valley several years ago found one in eight children born from a group of communities between 2002 and 2003 had FASD.

More and more research is being conducted into the disorder.

A report last week found more than one in three juveniles in WA’s Banksia Hill Detention Centre had FASD.

The head of the Telethon Kids Institute alcohol and pregnancy and FASD research team, James Fitzpatrick, said the FASD recommendations were “very sound”.

“In particular the recognition of FASD within disability services funding mechanisms,” he said.

“The most important national recognition is the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

“I believe FASD should be a diagnosis that triggers some degree of support, mainly because impairments are behavioural and are incredibly disruptive in a school environment.”

Dr Fitzpatrick said children with FASD were not being recognised as having a developmental impairment.

Source: The Kimberley Echo

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