Petrol sniffing continues to decline in Indigenous Communities

Release Date: 
30 July 2019
Media release

A new study into the prevalence of petrol sniffing in selected Indigenous communities has found a total 95.2 per cent reduction in the number of people sniffing petrol since 2007.

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt, said the downward trend aligned with the Coalition Government’s continued roll out of low aromatic unleaded fuel and is making communities safer and healthier.

“The results of the University of Queensland’s study in petrol sniffing and other substance abuse trends in Indigenous communities are encouraging,” Minister Wyatt said.

“The Morrison Government remains committed to the production and supply of low aromatic fuel, in partnership with the fuel industry and local communities, as a strategy to reduce the scourge of petrol sniffing.

“This study shows that the strategy is working and reducing incidents of this highly destructive behaviour.”

The University of Queensland studied 11 communities where low aromatic fuel is available and reports that over the 2017 and 2018 period the total number of people sniffing petrol fell a further 7 per cent since the last survey in 2014. For the first time, the study also systemically recorded misuse of alcohol and others drugs, including other volatile inhalants.

“We can do more to further stamp out petrol sniffing and other substance abuse. There are no easy fixes, but by working with communities, local organisations and health services, and across all levels of Government, I am confident we will continue to address the underlying causes of substance abuse,” Minister Wyatt said.

Tristan Ray from the Central Australian Youth Link Up Service, a regional petrol sniffing prevention programme based in Alice Springs, said low aromatic fuel has made a significant impact on their community.

“In 2006 when low aromatic fuel was first rolled out in Central Australia, there were around 500 people sniffing in our region with an average of seven deaths per year; it was an epidemic,” Mr Ray said.

“These days there wouldn’t even be 20 people sniffing in the same region. The introduction of low aromatic fuel was a community-driven solution supported by governments, retailers and the fuel industry that has worked well and stood the test of time

"Reducing petrol sniffing is one tangible thing we are doing to improve the day to day life for our young people in remote communities. It complements other efforts to also reduce substance abuse, including providing reliable youth sport and recreation programs, culture and language schooling, and improving community safety and health.”

University of Queensland researcher, Professor Peter d’Abbs, who conducted the study, said “Low aromatic fuel is effective and enjoys widespread community support. At the same time, the study also demonstrates the continuing need for measures that help to reduce demand for inhalants and other drugs, such as youth and recreation programs”.

The full report Longitudinal research into petrol sniffing and other substance abuse trends in Indigenous communities 2017-2018, is available on the National Indigenous Australians Agency website.