The Aboriginal Legal Service of WA Ltd (ALSWA) is outraged by comments by WA Premier Mark McGowan who claims that medical conditions such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) are “just an excuse”.

The Premiers’ comments were made in relation to the incident overnight at Banksia Hill Detention Centre in Perth.

“We are working with some of the most disadvantaged young people in Western Australia and the evidence is overwhelming that FASD, trauma and disability play a significant role in the over-representation of our people within the justice system” said ALSWA CEO Wayne Nannup.

A 2017 Telethon Kids Institute report indicated that First Nations children with FASD were particularly prevalent in the youth justice system. One study into the prevalence of FASD in imprisoned children in WA found that 89 per cent of participants, 76 per cent of whom were First Nations youth, had at least one domain of severe neurodevelopmental impairment, and 36 per cent, over one-third of participants in that group, were diagnosed with FASD.

“I’m outraged and appalled at the Premiers’ words.  It is ill-informed and irresponsible to bandy round such statements and McGowan’s rhetoric is extraordinarily damaging to the children under his government’s care, the majority of whom are Aboriginal” said Mr Nannup.

ALSWA works with many children and their families who have suffered greatly through conditions such as FASD and has made over 50 complaints about the conditions at Banksia Hill Detention Centre since early last year.

“It concerns me greatly that the Premier has such a lack of empathy and understanding about FASD and its physical impact upon learning and behaviours.  To say that it is “just an excuse” is dangerous, damaging and misleading. The children’s reactions are clearly a response to trauma and continue to highlight that continuing to lockdown the children at Banksia Hill remains the obstacle at hand” said Mr. Nannup.