person painting

Blacktown: FASD conversations through art

Art is helping intercultural women and girls in the City of Blacktown make more informed decisions about alcohol and other drugs (AOD).

The Blacktown LDAT’s creative art workshops set out to increase participants’ understanding of AOD harms and how alcohol consumption during pregnancy affects the developing baby, including Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

FASD refers to a range of problems caused by exposure of the fetus to alcohol during pregnancy.

Art Therapist and Facilitator Susan Baxter, from the Blacktown Women’s and Girls’ Health Centre, collaborated with women from a variety of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to create a safe and non-judgemental space for discussion.

Breaking down the barriers towards FASD prevention

Susan says that art therapy is a beautiful soft entry point for difficult conversations.

“Cultural and religious belief systems can make it hard for women to talk about alcohol especially with those who may not be sensitive to their needs. There is also a language barrier in accessing support systems.”

“Stigma around alcohol exposure during pregnancy can prevent women from reaching out.”

The workshop series kicked off with Susan asking participants what the word is for alcohol in their language.

“Talking about colloquialisms brought them in to be part of the conversation and helped to break down the barriers. The more we can have open conversations about FASD, the more that women will feel they can talk about it with their midwife or GP.”

“We also talked about making sure that it is men’s responsibility not to drink as well. We make it clear in the workshop that partners and spouses have a part to play as well.”

The two-hour sessions involved up to five women and girls in each group over six workshops.

FASD workshop
Pin the word on the image activity for the Blacktown LDAT workshop

The benefits of art

Whether it was painting, drawing, or collage-making, the women built their self-esteem and formed new friendships in the process.

Susan says that social connection plays a key role in reducing alcohol related harm during pregnancy.

“If more women and girls can feel part of a community, then it’s easier to discuss topics like AOD without the stigma attached to talking to a GP.”

The workshops also aimed to connect women to resources and the local community support services available.

LDAT resources worked well

The LDAT program’s support for the project was invaluable.

“The Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s information site has been a great resource for me about FASD and to share with participants, commented Susan.

“I found the ADF stakeholders kit helpful in understanding what to do and how to share the knowledge. To start conversations, I used the ADF’s Power of Words.”

While the participants made art, Susan played a YouTube clip from ADF on harm minimisation in pregnancy.

Women and girls from Afghanistan, China, India, the Philippines, Scotland and Australia came to the workshops. In their feedback, the biggest gain they talked about was the social connections they made, especially after the prolonged COVID lockdowns.

In Blacktown, there is no doubt that art is a powerful tool for positive change.

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