Labor coughs up $1m to combat petrol sniffing
- by: Mark Schliebs
- From:The Australian
- July 28, 201212:00AM
THE Gillard government has responded to concerns over petrol sniffing in remote Aboriginal communities by spending nearly $1 million on new diversionary programs and youth workers in high-risk areas.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon yesterday told The Weekend Australian the money would go towards programs targeting petrol sniffers and those abusing other substances in areas such as Katherine in the Northern Territory, the Kimberley in Western Australia, and Cape York in Queensland.
In Katherine, the site of a relatively large outbreak of petrol sniffing earlier this year, $123,200 has been allocated for the local Aboriginal health service to employ a “volatile-substance supply reduction worker” to lobby retailers to reduce access to sniffable petrol, paints and deodorants.
Mr Snowdon also increased pressure on the Western Australian, South Australian and Queensland governments for a faster response to calls for Northern Territory-style laws that would allow them to ban sniffable fuel in Aboriginal communities.
So far, the South Australian, Queensland and Northern Territory governments have expressed interest in considering a national approach to the problem.
The federal government’s response to petrol sniffing comes after The Australian revealed this week concerns about a re-emergence of the problem in remote Aboriginal communities.
The Gillard government has been under pressure to enact legislation to allow it to force retailers to sell non-sniffable Opal fuel, following reports that several who have refused to stock it had been a source for petrol sniffers from nearby communities.
Julia Gillard acknowledged the issue on Wednesday during a nationally televised news conference with premiers after the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra.
“We think petrol sniffing is a big problem and incredibly destructive problem,” the Prime Minister said. “Opal fuel does make a difference.”