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Good News; Petrol sniffing in serious decline


There are not enough good news stories about the substance abuse by indigenous people in the outback, but I think the very substantial decline in the sniffing of petrol is one that we can all celebrate .Of all of the way’s to get of your face, sniffing hydrocarbon solvents like petrol is worse than  Ice or meth amphetamine(which is ver bad indeed)    because of the irreparable damage it does to the brains of sniffers.

But this is not a case of “job over” but one of a very good start. Other substances like Alcohol and Cannabis will be much harder though because for mainstream Australia both of these drugs are largely considered acceptable in moderation and there can be no roll out of grog or ganja that won’t get you high. It is with these intoxicants that work has to be done on developing a culture of moderation and a social context that sees the aim of a drink (or what ever) is to mellow out rather than getting totally shit faced…

The near-elimination of petrol sniffing is a great achievementAUSTRALIA’s remote indigenous communities too often make headlines for all the wrong reasons: alcohol abuse, bashings and murders, the misapplication of tribal law to protect sexual predators, and the all-too-frequent failure of authorities to provide the same protections to Aborigines as are taken for granted in the rest of the country. But amid the horror stories there are causes for hope. Take petrol sniffing, once the scourge of many outback Aboriginal communities. As The Weekend Australian exclusively reported, this epidemic has all but ceased to exist in much of central Australia. A combination of community action and Opal fuel, which has fewer aromatics and is therefore much more difficult to get a high from by sniffing, have delivered a one-two punch to an epidemic that only a few years ago left some young Aborigines so debilitated they spent their days being pushed around in wheelchairs and shopping trolleys sucking fuel from parked cars. Things were so bad that in 2005, Northern Territory coroner Greg Cavanagh had to interrupt a bush hearing at Mutitjulu near Uluru into the deaths of three petrol sniffers the previous year when a young man present was found to be sniffing from a can hidden in his shirt. Now, with the BP-designed non-sniffable petrol being pumped around central Australia, thanks in part to a $42 million grant from the federal Government, the problem has largely abated. Today social workers and community leaders estimate there are just 20 petrol sniffers left in central Australia above the Northern Territory border, compared with about 600 a year and a half ago. In some indigenous communities south of the border, petrol sniffing is estimated to have fallen by 60 per cent.




  1. PKD says:

    Well I am going to agree with you on this one – I read this over the weekend and it’s great news (having nearly run over a petrol-headed native on the free as he tried to flag us down with the notorious ‘my cars run out of petrol’ scam – maybe he’d sniffed it all?). Good to see this is one problem thats almost being solved by the Govt.

    As for rollongi out Ganga that wont get you high, you can smoke the Cannabis strains Cannabis sativa L. subsp. sativa var. sativa all day long and not get high. It’s only the C. sativa subsp. indica sub species that carry THC.

    So you could roll out weed that wouldn’t get high. Unlike petrol though it would be pretty damn hard to stop them getting their mits on the good stuff!

  2. craigy says:

    Good news Iain!!

    Some more if you don’t mind.

    “The Tiwi people display a pride and self-confidence which is all too often absent from Aboriginal communities on the mainland.

    The Catholic Mission, which was established on Bathurst Island in 1911, was relatively benign. The Tiwi were able to weave traditional beliefs into Christianity and keep many aspects of their culture.

    “Tiwis have always had ownership of the land and we were never forced to mix with other tribes,” says 34-year-old John Munkara, a tourist guide. “We kept our customs and culture very strong.”

    The other big difference is that Bathurst Island only allows alcohol to be sold in its social club. No wine or spirits are available, and beer can only be drunk on the premises — takeaway cans and bottles are not allowed.

    The result is that, unlike some Aboriginal settlements, there is no problem with alcohol abuse and the people are remarkably friendly, smiling and waving at tourists.”

    And the reasons we should support the maintanance of the good bits of Aboriginal culture;

    ” In 2000, Ms Bishop’s department published ‘What Works’, case studies of 60 schools with high Indigenous populations. The data from her department found that the number one factor that improved school performance was ‘the recognition, acknowledgement and support of culture’. Furthermore, a recent NT research project found that bilingual schools attain slightly better English results than non-bilingual schools.”

    I hope this adds to the debate, as you can see it aint all bad Iain.

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