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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9811

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (19:44): I congratulate the member for Murray for bringing this important motion on foetal alcohol spectrum disorder to the parliament. This is a very important issue. I do not think enough attention is given to it. I hate to say this, but I do not think that women are given the information they need about this vitally important subject.

I asked one of my staff members to get together some information for me on this issue and I had to ask if he could reduce the amount of information he had, because the more he looked the more information he found. He even discussed it with his wife, who is a registered nurse. She told him that the information that is given to women is inadequate and that there needs to be a lot more information out there.

As recently as yesterday there was an article in one of the Sunday papers in which a woman was saying that she wanted to drink and she was going to drink what she felt was a moderate amount of alcohol. She argued that there was no information that said that drinking while pregnant is bad for the baby. That is misinformation and the information needs to get out there.

The term 'foetal alcohol spectrum disorder' is used to describe a range of disabilities in children. Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder affects every aspect of a young person's life as they grow up. It affects their work choices because it affects their intellectual ability. It changes their facial features and their appearance and that affects the way people relate to them. It affects them in so many areas.

The Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation have done a lot of work in this area. They have done some groundbreaking research and campaigns. I have met with them. They recently invested $500,000 in seven projects across Australia. A recent poll released by the foundation found that 80 per cent of Australians believe that consuming alcohol while pregnant can be harmful to the developing foetus and 72 per cent believe that drinking alcohol while breastfeeding is harmful to the child. A poll taken in Western Australia showed that a large proportion of women drank whilst they were pregnant. There was a random sample. The poll found that a high percentage of non-Indigenous women continued to drink during their pregnancy and that the percentage of Indigenous women who consumed alcohol was even higher.

I note that the member for Hasluck is here in the chamber. I think they have done more research on this issue in Western Australia than in other areas of Australia. The research that has been undertaken should be taken seriously. National guidelines in relation to drinking during pregnancy should be widely publicised. It is time that very strong statements are made about the impact drinking has upon the development of foetuses and the impact drinking alcohol whilst pregnant has on the life of the child once it is born. I refer members to an article in the West Australian on 1 September that showed that children from all socioeconomic groups are affected. This is a big problem. It needs to be addressed. It can only be addressed by making sure that information is out there for everybody.