It affects the development of more unborn children than cocaine and heroin, but many women still drink alcohol during pregnancy.
The World Health Organisation says Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is the number one preventable cause of intellectual and developmental disability globally.
A federal enquiry has found Australia is at least a decade behind America and Canada in dealing with the problem.
Twenty million dollars was committed to help battle the issue but, as Hannah Meagher reports, that’s now at risk.
Simple things like reading, writing and even telling the time, are tough for 18 year old Morgan Phillips.
Morgan’s mum drank heavily while pregnant with her and Morgan was born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
She struggles to remember things, gets frustrated easily and she blanks out regularly.
“There’s a lot of conversations where I don’t really know what’s going on but I’ve always just learnt to nod and sort of pretend I’m listening or I know what’s going on but I really don’t.”
Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, or FASD, manifest as various permanent birth defects.
“If I don’t understand something I’ve always just zoned out because I know I’m not ever going to understand it.”
Despite the learning and behavioural difficulties attributed to FASD, it’s not recognised as an official disability in Australia so access to support is extremely difficult.
“It was a real struggle through my high school years that no-one knew what it was, no-one knew how to help me, no-one knew how to help my parents and they went through probably hell trying to explain to the teachers what I need. Because I look normal it’s really hard for other people to understand what I’m not capable of, really.”
Twenty million dollars was pledged to address FASD in Australia but that’s now in jeopardy under the new govenrment.
In Australia, half of pregnancies are unplanned and with women binge-drinking more than ever, advocates say this funding is crucial.
Michael Thorn is the CEO of the Foundation for Alcohol Research And Education
“These funds are vitally needed for people affected by FASD so we are keen to hear from the new government that they will confirm the 20 million dollars and that those funds will start to flow.”
The federal government has told SBS they’re reviewing the funding.
feature by Hannah Meagher