** FASD-CAN and Alcohol Healthwatch have now created a dedicated website just for FASD Awareness Month in Aotearoa!
Click here to go there now.**
The ninth day of the ninth month symbolises the nine months of pregnancy, and events to raise awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) are held globally throughout the month of September. And in New Zealand, we have the privilege of being the first in the world to mark it!
Red shoes are the international symbol for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) awareness, and thousands of people around the world wear them on September 9. It's wonderful to have an international event, but we are working on creating an Aotearoa-specific one for 2023 – so you don't have to wear red shoes to take part in raising awareness around FASD!
FASD-CAN's key messages for FASD Awareness Month are:
• FASD is a lifelong disability caused by exposure to alcohol while in the womb.
• Rangatahi and tamariki affected by FASD experience physical, behavioural, emotional and learning difficulties that affect their interactions within education, health and justice settings.
• Currently the support for individuals with this neurodisability in Aotearoa New Zealand is very limited and many families face huge personal and financial difficulties as a result.
• With shared strength, guidance and wisdom, those with those with FASD can grow and achieve – ma te kaha o te kaha, te aratohu me te whakaaro nui, ka tupu te tipu me te whakatutuki i te hunga ki te FASD.
FASD International Awareness Day 2022
Click the headlines below to jump to each section.
The history of FASD Awareness Day
Recent leaps forward in Aotearoa
Why promote awareness of FASD?
Things you can do in your community!
Resources around alcohol/waipiro
How it all began
FASD International Awareness Day was initiated by RJ Formanek, a Canadian adult with FASD who speaks out about his challenges around the world in conferences, online and in podcasts. He wanted to stand out and be noticed, and chose red shoes to express him
self. When people noticed them and asked him about them, it became a great opportunity to talk about his FASD.
In 2013, RJ met Jodee Kulp, an international speaker, trainer and advocate for those with FASD, at a conference in Canada. Sure enough, she asked him about his shoes and thought it was a brilliant initiative – and the Red Shoes Rock FASD international awareness campaign was born.
Five years later, in 2018, a new logo was created, with ‘Start the Conversation’ on it, with a more structured aim of building awareness of FASD, reducing stigma and help people understand more about the diverse symptoms of brain and metabolic injury which can be caused by prenatal alcohol exposure.
Times are changing in Aotearoa.
Our campaign in 2021 brought our mascot, Huu Whero (Red Shoes) the ittle kiwi to our community's attention. Accompanied by our Chairperson Leigh Henderson and her grandchildren, the intrepid Huu's adventures in the lead up to September 9 were documented on our Facebook page.
Since September last year, there have been some great leaps forward.
Here are some highlights:
- On September 9 in 2021, Alcohol Healthwatch and the University of Auckland's School of Population Health co-hosted FASD Awareness Day on 9 September 2021 with a wonderful Zoom hui attended by hundreds online. NZ Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft and Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero presented their case that lack of funding for FASD in Aotearoa New Zealand is a Human Rights issue. Our Chair Leigh Henderson and our new Navigator Anna Gundesen also spoke. It was introduced by Alcohol Healthwatch's Executive Director Nicki Jackson.
- Excellent journalism from Paula Penfold brought the Disordered documentary to our screens as well as other deep investigations into FASD in Aotearoa – a must-watch to get an idea of how our justice system is failing those with FASD over and over again, bringing appalling miscarriages of justice to too many people with FASD.
- However, over the last two years a pilot in the Young Adult Court in Porirua has been a great success – a different way to work with young people with neurodisabilities in court. Read more here about this ground-breaking and very encouraging work from our justice system.
- We've had several surveys from Auckland University's school of population health which have found that professionals in the education and social work sectors need much more training and information about FASD. Results of a justice survey are in the pipeline.
- The Waitangi Tribunal had powerful cases presented on waipiro / alcohol harm to our Māori population, especially regarding FASD. A quote from a Māori petition imploring the government to regulate alcohol dating back to 1874 was brought to our attention: "...our children are not born healthy because the parents derink to excess and the child suffers..."
- A new Ministry for Disabled People has been launched, headed by Minister Poto Williams. However there is no confirmation yet as to whether there will be significant steps towards the Disability Support Services which those with FASD desperately need under the new Ministry.
- FASD-CAN has advocated for a review of the FASD Action plan with definitive timelines, learning support for those with FASD, consideration of FASD as a disability, retention of the Children’s commissioner, compliance with the rights of those with FASD under the United Nations Convention on the rights of disabled people, and improvements in the management of people with FASD within youth justice and care and protection facilities.
- We also launched our new website, created our Aotearoa-specific FASD Handbook, launched a grant scheme for our member whānau, and our first Navigator, Anna Gundesen, has now been in her role for one year, directly supporting whānau and beginning new NZ-specific training sessions for caregivers. We hope to find the funding to roll out more Navigators across the motu in the future. We are also rolling out a year of free webinars on FASD! Follow us on Facebook, sign up for newsletters, or best of all, join us as a member to stay updated.
Why start conversations with others about FASD?
Do it for all those who were born affected by prenatal alcohol exposure.
For all those yet to be born with FASD.
For the whānau who are raising children with FASD.
For the tamariki who have yet to be diagnosed with FASD.
For the adults who are living with FASD.
For the adults who do not know that they have FASD.
For the individuals who have a lifetime of medical and chronic illnesses because of FASD.
For the kaiako and schools trying to support children who have FASD.
For the communities who don't know how to help families affected by FASD.
For the medical and mental health professionals who want to know more about FASD.
For the researchers who are trying to find answers to help those with FASD.
For the justice systems that know we need new ways to support those with FASD.
For the governments that must change to help those with FASD and their families.
For the world to wake up to the knowledge about FASD!
Get involved in the FASD International Day of Awareness
There's a list of nationwide events here – do email us with your event to have it listed on our events page and we'll send you some of our new kiwi stickers for your participants to wear!
This year, the day falls on a Friday – which means schools, retailers and offices are OPEN – a fantastic opportunity to start conversations about FASD. NOTE: you don't have to wear red shoes to take part.
- Ask the principal at your school to get behind spreading the word about FASD to teachers (and students) on September 9. Use the school newsletter to put out a short piece of information about FASD to introduce it. You could download our graphic infosheet to help with this.
- Do the same at your office or even your church, the weekend before or after – the whole month of September is about FASD awareness.
- Have a Red Shoes Rock painting party. Go to a garden centre, beach or river and pick out some small, flat,oval rocks to paint to look like red shoes, stick a label with the FASD-CAN URL underneath and leave in public for people to find and re-hide. There's an international page to load up photos of found rocks. All information for your rock painting is here (and yes you can buy 'Mod Podge' sealant in NZ, or use any other sealer).
- Hold a morning tea / breakfast / dinner! You could hold your event in the lead-up to September 9 (the weekend before?) because we’d LOVE to get your photos to put up on our social media for everyone to share! We hear red velvet cupcakes are particularly popular...
- Download, print out and put up our graphic infosheet – in schools, offices, hospitals, doctors waiting rooms, community halls, churches, local supermarkets (after making sure it’s ok, of course!).
- Please email us with details of your event – we'll post it on our FASD Month Events page and send you stickers!
We have some Red Shoes logos, graphics, a graphic info sheet and a t-shirt design for you to download and print out as below. Click on the pics to go to the download page. Stay tuned – more on the way!
• You can also direct people who want to know more about FASD to our Resources page. Our FAQ section has lots of info too.
Send a letter to your MP
We also have an email template (in pdf format) which you can download, copy and paste into an email, edit as you wish, and send to your local MP. It asks them to advocate to Parliament on behalf of all people in their constituency whose lives are affected by FASD.
Click here to view the letter, download, edit and send (instructions also on how to find your local MP included).
Resources around alcohol / waipiro
Our friends at Alcohol Healthwatch are essential for monitoring alcohol harm in Aotearoa NZ.
- Find more ideas for FASD Awareness Day here.
- Download the new Alcohol Healthwatch FASD Factsheet here.
- For more about waipiro / alcohol, check out their community ActionPoint page.
Te Hiringa Hauora (Health Promotion Agency) has developed a digital toolkit of resources that can be used to support your promotional activities for FASD awareness month. You can view their toolkit here.
HPA also have a handy info sheet on alchohol-free pregnancy here.
If you need help with your drinking, call the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, visit their website, or free txt 8681.