FASD Awareness Month in Aotearoa, 2022

FASD Awareness Month 2022 saw awareness-raising events around the motu and for the first time, we had a specific website hub for news and events: FASDmonth.nz. The new website will be tweaked and refined over the coming year and will be back in 2024.

On FASD Awareness Day, September 9 2022, the world awoke to the sad news that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had died. Global news was understandably consumed with this event.

However, our webinar, in conjunction with Alcohol Healthwatch went ahead as planned with speakers including:

  • Leigh Henderson, the chair of FASD-CAN talking about the year that was and what’s ahead for FASD (scroll down to read Leigh's introduction below)
  • Anita Gibbs from University of Otago, speaking about what needs to change for caregivers
  • Harsh Vardhan from Te Whatu Ora, providing an update on FASD Action Plan 
  • Stuff Journalist Paula Penfold discussing FASD and the media
  • Tania Henderson, on her project ‘Hapū Mama’ which delivers FASD-informed care and training to whānau and service providers
  • Janell Dymus-Kurei of Hāpai te Hauora, on Hīpokina ki te Korowai Aroha o te Whānau – Understanding the Experiences of FASD Whānau
  • Nicki Jackson from Alcohol Healthwatch.


Leigh Henderson, FASD Awareness Day 2022 webinar introduction 

Dr Leigh Henderson, Chair of FASD-CAN, addressed FASD in Aotearoa over the past year and what we may look to in the future. Here is a short excerpt from her speech.

Around the world, FASD day is commemorated to raise awareness of the largest cause of neurodisability in the Western world. The day – the 9th day of the 9th month of the year – was chosen to raise awareness of the need to avoid consumption of alcohol during the 9 months of pregnancy... 

I was asked the other day if I could wake up tomorrow with one of the items on the FASD bucket list being ticked off, what would it be? There was no easy answer, because what is the point of diagnosis without support? Or support availability without diagnosis? The threads of need are interwoven, and New Zealand needs a cohesive FASD strategy such as those adopted in some other countries.

FASD is more common than autism, Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy combined, yet still largely unrecognised and unsupported. So why the inertia? Is the problem too big? Too costly? Does society not care? Do those in positions of power not realise the size and severity and impact of the issue? Is it because of stigma? If we want to change, we need to understand the resistance to change...

The full potential of up to eight children born in NZ today has been stolen from them by exposure to alcohol before they were born. For the estimated 27,000 to 45,000 children under 15 and for those young adults and adults living with FASD in Aotearoa – what do we need to enable them to live their best lives?

You can read Leigh's full introduction in our advocacy section here.


Press articles

• Newshub: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: Foster mum lays bare difficulties families face getting diagnosis and support with FASD-CAN member Karen Irving.

• Stuff: Calls for more support on FASD Awareness Day



National / Online

As well as our national webinar above, online events during FASD Awareness Month included two FASD-CAN webinars, both of which are now available on our post-webinar recordings page – ‘What Works at School for Tamariki and Rangatahi Māori with FASD’, and ‘Focus on Health: The Clinician’s Perspective’  


Te Tai Tokerau / Northland 

  • Dave Hookway at Northland DHB ran three FREE wananga in Whangārei / Kerikeri / Kaitaia for caregivers and whānau for FASD Awareness Month in Northland on the subject of ‘Protecting Our Whakapapa - Understanding and Responding to FASD’
  • FASD-CAN ran a two-day caregiver/whānau training in Whangarei – ‘Life with FASD’. The objective to grow knowledge, develop greater resilience, learn strategies and meet others who are also living with FASD in their whānau. More of these training days will be developed in 2023.


Tāmaki Makaurau

A second Pizza Club night, hosted by FASD Aotearoa in Albany for rangitahi 16 and over (parents welcome too!) ran on September 9, FASD Awareness Day which was hugely enjoyed by all.


There were many other events around the country, notably in Kirikiriroa/Hamilton, the Bay of Plenty, Whanganui and Nelson.

If you ran other events around the motu, we'd love to know about them!