Territory Stories

Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 10 October 2006



Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 10 October 2006

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Parliamentary Record 10


Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Tuesday 10 October 2006 3100 responsibility and I know that the minister will be working with the Commonwealth government regarding resources. This is a shift by the current NT government away from previous policy. However, I would like to warn every member in this House that this can only be done if there is a shift in the indigenous communities view on substance abuse and volatile substances. Each member has a responsibility to make that shift happen. We have heard on different occasions that indigenous communities are starting to make that shift, are starting to say this is wrong and we need to do something about it Madam Speaker, I just felt a need, a passion, to contribute to this statement; to put my name on the record to say that I support what the minister is doing and what this government is doing. Dr BURNS (Health): Madam Speaker, I speak in my capacity not only as Minister for Health, but also as Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services. As a number of people in the House would be aware, when I was at the Menzies School of Health Research, I spent a considerable amount of time researching the area of petrol sniffing - not only researching but looking at valid ways to actually decrease the incidence of petrol sniffing, and to decrease the social and physical effects of petrol sniffing on predominately young Aboriginal men, as referred to by the member for Millner. I have not been on the record many times since I have been in the House talking on petrol sniffing as I felt I made a contribution at that time, and as members would be aware Maningrida was where much of the study that I was involved in was focused. Basically, through that study and through drawing that community together petrol sniffing was eliminated from that community. I understand there may have been sporadic outbreaks since then, but that was a real victory for that community. I know that it is very important to develop strategies. Those strategies were outlined In the PhD thesis that I wrote and papers that I wrote and published including the Medical Journal of Australia. At the core of the strategies were firstly supporting communities which had been ravaged by petrol sniffing. Supporting them, giving them strength, giving them a framework where they could address these issues and try to bring their young people who strayed back into the family fold. In Maningrida, it was a range of strategies which included substituting Avgas in the fuel supply, and also the development of training and employment strategies for that community. That community responded in a very strong way. A big part of it was empowering the parents and the elders and leadership within that community. I am pleased to speak today on some of the strategies that this government has employed to address the issue of petrol sniffing. I would have to say that in some of the papers that I wrote I raised a question mark over whether legal sanctions would be an effective strategy to curb petrol sniffing. There was much debate at that time about it, but this government has gone ahead. It has brought in legal sanctions, a whole range of strategies, and I am very proud to say that I believe that those strategies have worked. I commend the minister for her foresight and energy in bringing this into the parliament, and for the success that has been gained through these strategies. Members would be aware that a big part of this strategy is pouring out the petrol; taking the petrol from these young kids and pouring it out on the ground. That is empowering communities and the specific officers in those communities to do that. The police have been very active in that regard and that is sending a message to the young people: we are not going to tolerate petrol sniffing; we are pouring the petrol out on the ground. I know on a number of communities, whether it is in Central Australia or in northern Australia, with some impunity; you see kids wandering around in the daylight with cans of petrol or soft drink containers of petrol to their face. I believe that is becoming a thing of the past as we are empowering communities and police, giving them the powers to pour out the petrol. As part of the strategies that were introduced by the minister, and I might say were criticised by the opposition, were the compulsory treatment orders. The opposition wanted to gaol people. I have never been one for gaoling these young people. That is not the solution. I believe the solution has been found by the minister and this government for compulsory treatment orders. Police are playing a pivotal role in processing these requests for treatment of individuals. The police are targeting the traffickers. We know that there are people who traffic in petrol for their own nefarious ends. The police are targeting those people. All in all, these are effective strategies to address the problem of petrol sniffing. We are a government also which understands that sanctions play a part in it but there is a wider issue here with our young people, particularly young indigenous people in the remote parts of the Territory. That issue is to provide useful activity for those people whether it is employment, whether it is recreation, whether it is education. We are a government which is trying to look at regional development for our remote areas and provide a pathway for young indigenous people, particularly young men, to walk away from petrol sniffing and all its adverse effects.

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