By Ian Neubauer

An outspoken health official in Halls Creek has slammed a program by the AHA that aims to tackle the town’s extraordinary high rate of foetal alcohol syndrome though a voluntary ban for pregnant women.

Halls Creek Hospital support service manager Robyn Long said the proposal was piecemeal, ill-thought and bound to fail as it did not involve consultation with the local community.

“The licensees don’t want to sit down and talk with us. They just want to go in and instigate their own ideas,” Long told TheShout today (Mar 30). “I have offered to sit down and have a big workshop and work out ways to stop the grog, or help people drink responsibly. But no one wants to do that.”

Long added the plan that asks pregnant women join a registry that authorises liquor retailers to refuse them service was ridiculous as an alcoholic would never take such action. She said the plan was further complicated by the fact that most women do not know they are pregnant until at least one month after conception.

“Just targeting pregnant mums will not help the situation. We have continual violence and children being neglected. That’s what needs to be addressed,” she said, adding that the only practical stopgap was to ban the sale of everything but low-strength beer in the town as per the example of Fitzroy Crossing.

“I really believe that first of all, we need to stop the heavy grog so people can have a sober brain to think about what they are doing. We have 300 children saying they want to stop the grog, but no one wants to think about that.

“We will never change peoples’ way of thinking if they are not sober.”

But AHA WA chief executive Bradley Woods said the ‘NO Grog for me’ program can make a real difference if supported by local health officials.

“’The NO Grog for me’ self exclusion program has the potential to play a critical role in the further prevention of foetal alcohol syndrome in Halls Creek,” he said. “Licensees are ready, willing and able to stop the sale of alcohol to pregnant women, but this will not be successful without the active support of health services in Halls Creek.”

According to the AHA, 90 per cent of women in Hall Creek are alcoholics and 30 per cent of the children born to them suffer from foetal alcohol syndrome.

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The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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