Triple J, Hack programme interview with Tom Tilley

Release Date: 
5 February 2015
Transcript
E&OE

Topics: aerosol deodorant sniffing in Alice Springs

TOM TILLEY:
Hello Alan.

ALAN TUDGE:
Hello Tom.

TOM TILLEY:
It’s good to have you on the show.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks for having me.

TOM TILLEY:
And in the Alice Springs studio we have Donna Ah Chee. She’s the CEO of the Central Australian Congress. Hello Donna.

DONNA AH CHEE:
Hi Tom.

TOM TILLEY:
Now Donna first to you. We just heard about some of the efforts being made by local retailers to make sure deodorants get into the wrong hands. Are the shops doing enough?

DONNA AH CHEE:
Look I think there’s been a lot of work done by- and we heard from Blair in your lead up into this story from the Central Australian Youth Link Up Service and many years of work has gone into this and I think that the retailers are responding positively to this awful situation in Alice Springs.
But I think the point that was made by Blair was around the actual issue of it being voluntary. There does need to be a change to the Volatile Substance Abuse Prevention Act that makes it mandatory to ensure that retailers have safe storage plants for these types of products.This is obviously a complex issue. Inhalants and substance misuse is really just a symptom of a much more deeper problem and if we go to- I think it’s fair to say that no Australian Government on either side of politics has ever done enough to address the fundamental disadvantage faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in Australia.

TOM TILLEY:
Alright let’s go to the member of the current government on the phone right now. Alan Tudge you heard Donna say there that the Northern Territory Government should change the Volatile Substance Act to force shops into taking action. Do you agree with that?

ALAN TUDGE:
In the first instance I think we should just request the retailers to not stock the aerosol deodorant and just stock the roll-on.

TOM TILLEY:
OK.

ALAN TUDGE:
In the second instance we should ask- if they are stocking the aerosols- to at least have them behind a cage and indeed the Federal Government has provided some funding to the Central Australia Youth Link Up Service which is working with retailers in order to provide cages so that they aren’t within reach.

TOM TILLEY:
Alan, how far do you think this ban on propellant deodorant should spread? Should it just be in Alice Springs? Should it be the whole Northern Territory?? I mean where do you draw the line on this?

ALAN TUDGE:
Listen I’m not suggesting there should be a ban. I’m just sort of saying that in Alice Springs where there’s clearly an issue at the moment, then- most retailers are responsible and I would just request for them to have a look and if they can just supply roll-on deodorant then do that rather than supplying something that may be able to be used in a harmful way.

TOM TILLEY:
OK so you wouldn’t go as far as to legally bind them to take action?

ALAN TUDGE:
Not in the first instance. In the first instance, let’s ask the retailers to be responsible and generally they are. Already I understand Coles and Woolworths and many of the other retailers are putting the aerosol deodorant behind the cage so they’re not immediately accessible. And as I said we’re providing some funding to assist with that.

TOM TILLEY:
Alright we’ve got a call from Laura in Wollongong. Laura you work at Coles there in Wollongong. You had a regular customer who was sniffing deodorant, what happened?
CALLER LAURA: Yeah we used to have a customer come in about twice a week buying several lots of aerosol cans at a time. He would go out into the centre toilets and come back in with white powder around his nose so it was quite clear that he had been sniffing. Management ended up banning him from buying the aerosols and he started buying air fresheners instead. Eventually he was caught stealing enough times that they could ban him from the store.

TOM TILLEY:
Well I guess in a city like Wollongong he could just go somewhere else, which is a real struggle. And part of the problem in Alice Springs as well- although it would be a bit easier given the smaller population there. Laura thanks for the story. It just demonstrates that this is a problem faced by people all around Australia. Of course there are specific circumstances in the Northern Territory which make the situation very unique.
Alan Tudge we heard about the success that Opel had in bringing down the number of people petrol sniffing and the Federal Government had a role to play in that. Do you reckon the Federal Government should be doing more for deodorant sniffing?

ALAN TUDGE:
Yeah in that instance there was a technological solution. You can put in place low aromatic fuel and therefore it didn’t actually impact on everyday residents either because they could just use that fuel rather than ordinary fuel.
There were 500 people that we were aware of at the time who were sniffing that petrol and basically that dropped by 90 per cent so it was a terrific outcome.
In relation to the deodorant we’ve provided some funding already through another organisation to work with the retailers in Alice Springs. Predominantly to put the aerosol cans behind the cage but this isn’t going to solve all the problems. That’s an immediate short-term solution to a problem which is there.
Longer term you do have to work on some of the root causes here and really the root cause is a breakdown of societies over the last three decades with kids not going to school, adults not having work opportunities, alcoholism which is rife and that’s caused a societal breakdown and a family breakdown.
We need to get back to supporting the restructuring of those societies to ensure that kids are in school, to provide work opportunities and to ensure there is law and order in place.

TOM TILLEY:
Donna yesterday on the show we looked at cuts to services that you and other locals said could have saved this 12 year olds life, then on the same day the Northern Territory Government announced they were putting a $1.25 million into youth services, even though they made significant cuts just a couple of years earlier. Did you welcome the news yesterday?

DONNA AH CHEE:
Yes we did welcome the news, however if you look at back in 2012 when the NT Government released a mini-budget, we in fact saw a $78 million cut across the Territory of which about $3 million of that was in Alice Springs and that affected organisations like Congress and Tangentyere, a number of other NGO services.
Although this is welcoming news it’s about a third of what was available about two years ago. So there’s a lot of catch-up to do here and particularly around obviously we would like to see Congress’ youth after-hours drop-in and street patrol service reinstated.

TOM TILLEY:
Well maybe you can apply for the funding mow?

DONNA AH CHEE:
Yes, that is an option. However the process by which this money is available and let’s look at how much it is- it’s $300,000 per year. It’s not a large amount of money. So to put this money to a regional committee to make a decision about, I hope we’re not going to find that the money is distributed across a number of organisations that then have a fragmentation of services and in effect, won’t make any change at all.
So there is a real issue here about the process this resource is put back into youth services and it’s not really clear in the announcement that it is for after hours service which is really where the shortcomings are in the current access to youth services in this town.​

TOM TILLEY:
OK there’s lots more questions we could ask but we have to leave it there for today. Thank you both so much for coming on the show. Donna Ah Chee, CEO of Australian Aboriginal Congress and Alan Tudge who’s the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister with a focus on Indigenous Affairs. Thanks guys.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks Tom.

DONNA AH CHEE:
Thank you.