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Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

Progress on plan to combat petrol sniffing

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Tony Abbott MP, Minister for Health and Ageing

The Howard Government has announced further progress on a $9.5 million plan to combat petrol sniffing in Central Australia after a briefing in Alice Springs today.

Officials from the Office of Indigenous Policy Co-ordination and Department of Health met with Australian Government agencies to discuss implementing an eight-point strategy to address the issue.

Federal, State and Territory agencies are working closer together to better co-ordinate and utilise services across the region. A key aspect involves listening to Indigenous communities to hear their ideas about how to stop petrol sniffing.

An estimated 600 Indigenous people in Central Australia are believed to be petrol sniffers. The Howard Government is committed to working with state and territory governments in their efforts to reduce petrol sniffing in Indigenous communities through an eight-point plan. The new strategic approach agreed with the SA, WA and NT governments involves:

  • Consistent legislation – The SA, WA and NT governments have introduced strong penalties for offences relating to the sale or supply of volatile substances for sniffing
  • Appropriate levels of policing – Including “zero tolerance” for traffickers
  • Further roll-out of non-sniffable petrol – Such as Opal fuel, which does not give sniffers a “high”
  • Alternative activities for young people
  • Treatment and respite facilities
  • Communication and education strategies
  • Strengthening and supporting communities – To become real partners in solving the problem
  • Evaluation – Capturing what works so it can be applied elsewhere.

Services will be targeted towards the needs of individual communities to address the range of ways petrol sniffing can impact on a community.

The Howard Government has committed about $20 million to combat petrol sniffing between 2004-05 and 2007-08. A significant amount of this funding will be used to subsidise unsniffable OPAL fuel. OPAL is currently in 52 Indigenous communities and there is one OPAL pump in Alice Springs.