The Lililwan Story

“The ones who drink are a small group, but the impact is devastating. We are the ones who live with the violence, the suicides. It is our children who are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. We women and children want a future.”

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) represents a group of permanent disorders caused by exposure of the unborn child to alcohol consumed by the mother during pregnancy. These disorders can range from extreme neurodevelopment disorders severely impinging on a child’s ability to learn to alcohol related birth defects. FASD does not only impact on an individual’s social and emotional development and their capacity to learn and remember, but in a place such as Fitzroy Crossing, built on histories of oral inheritance and extensive family interconnectedness, it threatens their entire cultural and social cohesiveness. In order for this community to reconstruct itself, all of its children, with and without FASD, must be surrounded with love and be nurtured with sensitivity and responsibility. June Oscar has said a “collaborative circle of community care” must be established.
In 2009, a FASD prevalence study was conducted called the Lililwan Project, meaning all the little ones in Kriol.

The Valley has experienced cyclic dispossession and removal of people from their ancestral homelands. Past State policies and practices have diminished people’s cultural attachment to their country and eroded their connection to the voices, stories and knowledge of their ancestors. Regardless of this history Fitzroy valley people remain resilient. They continue to assert their rights and interests over this region, revisiting country and revitalising cultural practices. It is this resilience in the face of overwhelming grief and social deprivation that has empowered Fitzroy women in the valley to take a stand, reflect on their history, share painful truths, and talk honestly about the effects that alcohol has had on their children. They have engaged and discussed openly, free from blame and shame.
Marulu, meaning precious in Walmajarri, is the Fitzroy Valleys journey to understanding and responding to the high levels of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and Early Life Trauma (ELT) in the region. In 2009 the George Institute for Global Health was invited to engage in extensive conversations and consultations with the communities of the Valley. The Institute, with the support of the community, conducted a FASD prevalence study called the Lililwan Project, meaning all the little ones in kriol. Their findings and recommendations are the first steps to overcoming FASD and protecting the lililwans from the devastating impacts of excessive alcohol consumption.