In recent weeks, the case of Rosie Anne Fulton, a young Northern Territory Indigenous woman with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, has again attracted media attention. Rosie was imprisoned for 21 months in Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison in Western Australia after being found unfit to stand trial on charges of reckless driving and motor vehicle theft.

Since her release in 2014, Rosie has been in and out of prison, without stable accommodation. Her guardian, former Territory police officer Ian McKinlay, says the lack of appropriate government support means Rosie will once again be “abandoned to a perilous existence and imprisonment”.

Rosie’s case highlights how the system is failing Indigenous people with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Parliamentary committees have found Australia’s response to foetal alcohol spectrum disorder “lags behind other countries” and that there is “a great need for diversion programs which redirect individuals who come in contact with the criminal justice system”.

To begin addressing the needs of Indigenous young people with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, the criminal justice response must focus on diversion into Indigenous community-owned-and-managed structures and processes.

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