Delivery of the Petrol Sniffing Strategy in Remote Indigenous Communities

Delivery of the Petrol Sniffing Strategy in Remote Indigenous Communities Report

ANAO Report

  • Author(s): Auditor General
  • Published: 2015
  • Publisher: Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

Abstract: 1. In the late 1990s, remote Indigenous communities concerned about the incidence of petrol sniffing and its negative consequences requested assistance from the Australian Government to support efforts to tackle outbreaks. The effects of petrol sniffing on communities include: increased rates of domestic violence; petty crime such as theft and vandalism; assaults; family and social disruption as well as affecting the health of the individuals involved in sniffing. Socially, the emotional and financial impacts on the community and the health and justice systems are significant, as is the cost of treating the short and long-term health effects of sniffing related harm.1 2. In response to concerns raised, the Australian Government commenced the Comgas Scheme in 1998, which subsidised the provision of Avgas, a low aromatic leaded aviation fuel, to participating communities. The lower aromatic formula does not produce the same intoxicating effects as regular petrol. Avgas was unattractive to petrol sniffers but was not a viable long term option as Australia was phasing out leaded fuels generally. In 2005, a low aromatic unleaded fuel (LAF) was developed by BP Australia Pty Ltd (BP) as a substitute to regular unleaded petrol (RULP) and the Australian Government commenced supporting its distribution to communities. 3. Petrol sniffers tend to be young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and marginalised groups.2 The Senate Community Affairs References Committee in 2006 documented underlying causes of petrol sniffing in Indigenous communities as including: poverty and hunger; boredom; the cultural and social impacts of colonisation and interaction with the non-Indigenous community; a lack of employment and education opportunities; and social factors such as family breakdown, neglect, and peer group pressure.3 The sniffing of volatile substances is not confined to petrol. Other commonly available products known to create similar effects include aerosol sprays, such as deodorant, glue, spray paint and butane gas (lighter fluids). Addressing the use of these other volatile substances is not currently the primary focus of the Australian Government’s efforts to reduce petrol sniffing.

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Suggested Citation
Auditor General, 2015, Delivery of the Petrol Sniffing Strategy in Remote Indigenous Communities, Report, viewed 11 December 2023,

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