Revolving Door – FASD and the Justice System

Roseanne Fulton, woman with FASD who was once held indefinitely in Western Australian prison for crimes she did not have the capacity to be held responsible for, is once agin back in jail in the Northern Territory after a series of stints of being homeless.  Roseanne’s brother is also in jail.


Roseanne Fulton: “The whole family is a tragic story,” says former policeman Ian McKinlay


Ms Fulton, who has fetal alco­hol syndrome disorder, shares a cell at the Alice Springs Correct­ional Centre with her younger sister, who also has the impairment, caused by a mother who drank while she was pregnant.

Born in 1989 in Alice Springs, where she drifted in and out of her abusive home, she was traded for sex from the age of five and event­ually placed under adult guardianship at the age of 19.

After she set herself on fire, Ms Fulton was transferred by Territory authorities to a remote West Australian community in 2012, where she committed a range of minor offences mostly relating to property damage and faced a court where she was found mentall­y unfit to plead.

Her case rose to national prominence after her guardian, former Territory police officer Ian McKinlay, broke with convention to reveal she had been housed in a West Australian jail because there was no accommodation she could be released into.

Despite her release later in 2014, Ms Fulton has spent most of the past 20 months in and out of jail and a series of accommodation arrangements set up by the Northern Territory Department of Health, which have all failed.

“The whole family is a tragic story: it is a story of how the system simply cannot or will not deal with indigenous people who have intellectual disabilities,” Mr McKinlay told The Australian.

“She will be released in April but there are zero prospects for her, she will be homeless again.”

Although West Australian courts found her unfit to plead guilty, Territory courts have not.

“Over recent years we have managed to get a handful of cases out of indefinite incarceration and back into the care where they should be,” Mr McKinlay said.

“Most of those, in one way or another, are going to head back to jail. The problem is this incultur­ated addiction to prison solutions that exists within the NT. They just can’t throw it off.”

Rosie, as she is known, often acts out when she has no stable accommodation but Mr McKinlay said he did not believe the Territory was capable of supporting her. She has been deemed at risk of sexual harm by men in a secure care facility run by the Territory government, which was largely designed around her needs.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has taken an interest in her case for years.

“Roseanne’s situation has been a matter close to my heart ever since she was incarcerated without trial or conviction for almost two years in Western Australia,” he said. “I have recently written to the Northern Territory Minister for Health suggesting possible long-term accommodation options for his consideration.

“Roseanne’s situation also highlights the need for systemic change to help people with FASD.” It costs between $500,000 and $1 million a year to provide around-the-clock care and support for people with high-needs disabilities. The Territory Department of Health and Community Services did not respond to a request for comment.


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