The town of Alice Springs is at the very centre of Australia. Its indigenous name is Mparnpwe, the literal meaning of which is "meeting place" as it was a traditional place of coming together for various regional indigenous groups at times of ceremonies.
It really lived up to its name for the recent Institute of Australasian Psychiatrists AGM and clinical meeting in March this year. It was held in the delightful botanic gardens planted with Australian native plants and inhabited by Australian fauna.
The theme "Psychiatry, the Law and Addiction" brought together people of many disciplines and experience - prison and probation officers, lawyers, general practitioners, social workers, nurses as well as psychiatrists and psychologists.
Highlights included a welcome to country by a traditional Arrente elder woman who is also a mental health worker. Although addiction as a psychological phenomenon was discussed, the subject of substance abuse was much to the fore.
Those with particular experience in working with foetal alcohol spectrum (FAS) included child and adolescent psychiatrists, drug and alcohol workers and legal practitioners, some of whom have international experience in the legal and forensic implications of those with FAS. Apart from nicotine, alcohol is the main substance of abuse in Australia and foetal alcohol spectrum is an ever-increasing problem.
Ways of mitigating, educating and preventing this scourge with its tragic consequences include regulating the quantity of alcohol drunk, price control and education. For those children affected, early diagnosis, treatment and non-punitively legal responses are essential.
Participants were uniformly enthusiastic about the benefits of sharing information and therapeutic experience.
President, Institute of Australasian Psychiatrists