Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hope for Australian petrol sniffing problem

Petrol sniffing inquiry offers hope
The Federal Opposition says a political consensus on dealing with petrol sniffing will give Australia its best chance in decades of combating the problem in remote Indigenous communities.
A Senate inquiry into petrol sniffing handed down its recommendations yesterday, stressing the need to hasten the roll-out and production of non-sniffable Opal fuel.
The inquiry also recommended secure long-term funding models for youth and mental health programs, as well as a police presence in all Indigenous communities.
The Labor Senator for the Northern Territory, Trish Crossin, says she is optimistic.
"There's been over 20 years of reports into the petrol sniffing crisis in this country and this time Government members, along with the Democrats and the Greens and the Labor Party, have unanimously urged all governments to actually get together to start addressing this," she said.
"We would hope this would be the last report."
Health, community groups
Aboriginal health and community groups have also welcomed the report.
The chairman of the South Australian Aboriginal Health Council, John Singer, says it is the 13th such report and action is overdue.
"I think now it's time to start putting those dollars into programs and start to actually deliver some of these services," he said.
Mr Singer says communities have been disappointed by brief knee-jerk reactions from governments in the past and are hoping for a sustained, coordinated approach this time.
The Central Australian Youth Link-Up Service (CAYLUS) says it is also heartened by the report's recommendations.
CAYLUS spokesman Tristan Ray says the roll-out of Opal fuel is particularly important.
"The Government have got some wickets on the board in terms of Opal," he said.
"Opal fuel has worked really well in a number of communities and is a powerful tool to stop sniffing, particularly if it's accompanied by basic youth programs which are what we don't have in many communities at the moment."
Practical solutions
Western Australia Indigenous Affairs Minister Sheila McHale says an arrangement with South Australia and the Northern Territory has helped target petrol traffickers.
The deal has also helped tackle the mental health impact of sniffing.
Ms McHale says more practical solutions should be discussed at next week's federal summit on abuse in Indigenous communities.
"We need practical support - we don't need another talkfest," she said.
"We have the summit on Monday and I hope that [Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister] Mal Brough will able to come to that summit with some practical support for states and territories - we can't go it alone."
Ms McHale says the Government is about to sign a bilateral agreement with the Commonwealth, which includes a commitment to increase the roll-out of Opal fuels.
She says the WA Government is also working on other initiatives."Western Australia will continue to focus on the traffickers of petrol and the mental health devastation that can be caused by young kids sniffing petrol and having brain injury," she said.