The George Institute and University of Sydney Applauded for Exemplary Indigenous Affairs

The George Institute for Global Health and the University of Sydney’s Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, have been recognised and highly praised by Mick Gooda, Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner for addressing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in partnership with Aboriginal communities in the Fitzroy Valley.

In his Social Justice Report released today, Commissioner Gooda says “This research project is setting an example to the rest of Australia on how best to approach Indigenous affairs. A process guided by a relationship underpinned by meaningful, respectful engagement and collaboration will always be more effective and successful than one that is not. Harnessing this way of thinking and operating opens a myriad of opportunities to address difficult and sensitive issues in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

The Marulu research project involves Australia’s first-ever holistic approach to the prevention, diagnosis and management of FASD. It is being led by an Aboriginal community, in partnership with world-class researchers. FASD represents a continuum of permanent birth defects caused when mothers consume alcohol during pregnancy. These conditions, considered 100% preventable, result in the birth of children with physical, behavioural and cognitive problems.  Although there are no accurate data on the exact prevalence of FASD in Indigenous communities, paediatricians suggest that up to 30% of children in the Fitzroy Valley may be affected.

The research team from The George Institute and the University of Sydney were invited by June Oscar and Maureen Carter, community leaders from Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia, to join them in addressing this devastating reality. “This is a highly sensitive subject and I knew we had to find the right partners to help us understand what we needed to do to give the best care and support to our children and their families,” says June Oscar, CEO of Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre in Fitzroy Crossing. “This is a trusted partnership, unique in the way the research team has approached their role with respect, integrity, appropriateness and transparency.”

Associate Professor Jane Latimer, from The George Institute, said “In being invited, we (the research team) have always kept in the forefront of our minds that this project is, and must continue to be, led by the community. We bring our technical expertise in high quality research, but it’s the community that shapes and drives this project. It is a true collaboration, in every sense of the word.”