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Social Justice Report 2003: Chapter 4: Responding to petrol sniffing on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands: A case study

Social Justice Report 2003

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  • Chapter 4: Responding to petrol sniffing on the Anangu
    Pitjantjatjara Lands: A case study

    In September 2002, the South Australian
    Coroner brought down his findings in the inquests into the deaths of Kunmanara[1] Ken (who died on 3 August 1999), Kunmanara Hunt (who died on 27 January
    2001) and Kunmanara Thompson (who died on 26 June 2001). Each of these
    young Anangu was a chronic petrol sniffer (they had been sniffing for
    at least ten years) in their mid to late twenties living on the Anangu
    Pitjantjatjara Lands (AP Lands). All three were found to have died as
    a result of inhalation of petrol fumes.[2]

    Indigenous community organisations on the
    Pitjantjatjara lands had lobbied hard for the inquests to take place in
    order to bring public attention to the devastating impact that petrol
    sniffing was having on the AP Lands and to the lack of government action
    in addressing the situation. The Coroner identified that socio-economic
    factors such as hunger, poverty, illness, low education levels, almost
    total unemployment, boredom and general feelings of hopelessness 'form
    the environment in which such self-destructive behaviour takes place'.[3] He stated: 'That such conditions should exist among a group of people
    defined by race in the 21st century in a developed nation like Australia
    is a disgrace and should shame us all'.[4]

    The Coroner identified the failure of governments
    (both federal and state) to provide adequate services on the AP Lands
    to address these factors as contributing to the problems associated with
    and leading to petrol sniffing. The findings and recommendations of the
    inquests provide a blue print for action in addressing issues relating
    to petrol sniffing on the AP Lands within a systemic and long term framework.

    In this chapter, I examine progress in implementing
    the recommendations of the Coroner in the year since they were released.
    It is critical for the South Australian and federal governments to respond
    in a coordinated and timely manner to this most difficult, entrenched
    and devastating issue. An analysis of how they have approached this task
    and the processes that they have committed to is also of broader relevance
    for addressing chronic substance misuse and petrol sniffing issues in
    other Indigenous communities across Australia. The chapter commences with
    an overview of research on the extent of petrol sniffing in Indigenous
    communities across Australia and its impact on Indigenous communities.
    It then discusses issues relating to petrol sniffing on the AP Lands and
    the Coroner's findings, as well as considers the adequacy and appropriateness
    of governmental responses and processes that are currently in train on
    the AP Lands to deal with petrol sniffing issues.

    Petrol sniffing and Aboriginal and Torres Strait
    Islander communities

    a) The impact of petrol sniffing on Indigenous communities

    There are two main ways that petrol sniffing
    impacts on Indigenous communities. First, at an individual level it can
    be life-threatening and poses significant risks to health. It can also
    result in increasing levels of disability. Second, it has disruptive and
    destructive effects on the functioning of families and communities.

    The impact of petrol sniffing on a person's
    health has been described as follows:

    Petrol is a mixture of C4 to C12 hydrocarbons,
    the relative amounts of the various constituents depending on the origin
    and preparation of the petrol. The unsaturated hydrocarbons have mild
    anaesthetic properties while the saturated hydrocarbons have a narcotic
    effect. The principle additive is tetraethyl lead which also has intoxicant
    properties. Tetraethyl lead and its metabolites are highly neurotoxic.

    Fifteen to 20 inhalations of petrol will
    cause euphoria and intoxication for three to six hours. Prolonged inhalation
    or rapid inhalation of a highly concentrated vapour, such as when petrol-soaked
    cloth is held to the nose, may lead to violent excitement followed by
    a loss of consciousness, coma or death. Organic lead toxicity is regarded
    as the major long term health hazard of petrol sniffing, although some
    other components (toluene, n-hexane) may contribute to neurological
    damage ...

    Other long term sequelae of chronic sniffing
    include nutritional disturbances, anaemia, and cardiac, liver and renal
    effects. Cognitive functioning may also be impaired and there is evidence
    that some of these changes are irreversible.[5]

    The South Australian Coroner also describes
    the risks to the health of sniffers as follows:

    Individuals who sniff petrol are at a
    high risk of pneumonia and chronic lung disease; trauma; burns and injury.
    In addition there have been some deaths in which sudden death has clearly
    occurred during acute episodes of inhalation. These deaths may be related
    to cardiac arrythmias, respiratory arrest because of acute effects on
    the brain stem or cerebral oedema ...

    Lead toxicity of the brain is clearly
    well established in the literature and has been a major cause of brain
    damage related to petrol sniffing. However there are significant data
    now suggesting that aromatic hydrocarbons (eg benzene) are also responsible
    for neurotoxicity.[6]

    Petrol sniffing can also be a significant
    cause of physical disablement, necessitating full-time attendant care.
    The Northern Territory Parliament's Select Committee on Substance Abuse
    in the Community noted earlier this year that:

    The direct impact of inhalant abuse is
    usually contained to the sniffer and family and immediate community.
    However, it has implications for the broader community also. The end
    result of petrol sniffing other than early death is brain damage which
    leaves the sniffer in a vegetative state. A conservative estimate of
    the cost to the NT of maintaining an ex-sniffer in this state is $150,000
    pa. While there are presently 15 such persons in central Australia,
    it is estimated that this could escalate to upwards of 60 in the near
    future, an ongoing (and growing) cost of $9m per annum. These figures
    argue strongly for action to curb the practice and stem the damage now.[7]

    In his findings of the coronial inquests
    on petrol sniffing on the AP lands, Coroner Chivell outlines the social
    impacts of petrol sniffing, specifically on the Anangu population, as

    Petrol sniffing poses a range of problems
    to sniffers, their families, communities and to the wider society. Among
    the problems which have been associated with petrol sniffing are: serious
    health consequences including death or long-term brain damage, social
    alienation of sniffers, social disruption, vandalism and violence, increased
    inter-family conflict and reduced morale on communities, incarceration
    of sniffers and costs to the health system in terms of acute care and
    providing for the long-term disabled ...[8]

    In her earlier work, Maggie Brady states
    that: 'it is not possible to provide an unequivocal answer to the question
    of whether "Aboriginal people" define petrol sniffing to be a problem.' [9] However, evidence to the recent Coronial Inquests
    on the AP Lands makes clear that the Anangu certainly perceive petrol
    sniffing as a devastating contemporary problem facing their communities.
    One community member commented at the Inquest:

    ...they create endless trouble for us and
    it just goes on and on. What I would really like to do is to help them
    stop but - I love them and would care for them but the problem is with
    their sniffing they start to not be able to understand properly so I
    can't even intervene because they can't understand what I am on about

    In his findings the Coroner also stated

    Many attempts over the years to combat
    petrol sniffing [on the AP Lands] have been unsuccessful. Anangu continue
    to try and care for sniffers even when they continue to sniff, and even
    after they are violent and disruptive to their families and the community.
    Some Anangu are concerned that if they try and stop sniffers they will
    harm them, or that the sniffers may harm themselves. They look to the
    broader community to help them deal with a problem which has no precedent
    in traditional culture.[11]

    b) Recent concern about petrol sniffing in Indigenous

    In the year since these Coronial inquests,
    there has been significant concern expressed about petrol sniffing in
    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities at the national level.
    In October 2003, the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee
    made the following recommendation in the report of its inquiry into national
    progress towards reconciliation:

    The Committee recommends that during the
    Spring sitting 2004 the Senate refer to it an inquiry on progress in
    addressing the problems surrounding petrol sniffing in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara
    lands, including progress as it relates to the COAG whole of government
    trial conducted there.[12]

    The Dissenting Report of Government members
    of the Committee questioned such a distinct focus on addressing the issue
    on the AP Land. Instead, their Dissenting Report proposed that recommendation
    20 of the committee (quote above) be amended to:

    provide at a later date the Senate refer to it
    an inquiry on progress in addressing the problems surrounding petrol
    sniffing in remote Aboriginal communities. Government members believe
    that petrol sniffing is a problem in many regions of Australia and any
    inquiry should be able to review strategies employed in different regions
    to assess their effectiveness.[13]

    In its submission to the House of Representatives
    Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs' Inquiry
    into Capacity-building, the Aboriginal Land Rights Movement (ALRM) of
    South Australia recommended that the Social Justice Commissioner monitor
    the implementation of the recommendations of the recent coronial inquests
    on the AP Lands:

    It is submitted that a recommendation should
    be made that the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission, Social
    Justice Commissioner should monitor the progress of the State and Federal
    governments in implementing the recommendations flowing from the inquest
    into the deaths of three petrol sniffers.[14]

    In March 2003, the House of Representatives
    Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs also released the report
    of its inquiry into substance abuse in Australian communities. It noted
    that the use of inhalants such as petrol and aerosols was relatively rare
    in the Australian community, but nevertheless was a matter of concern
    to the committee due to the serious impact of inhaling and its prevalence
    among particularly disadvantaged groups such as Indigenous people.[15] The Committee recommended that:

    the Commonwealth government take a leading role
    as a matter of urgency in establishing a national committee to coordinate
    policy and programs to prevent the use of inhalants and treat dependent

    The issue of petrol sniffing in Indigenous
    communities has also been raised as an issue in recent parliamentary inquiries
    in Victoria and the Northern Territory (discussed further below).

    c) Information about petrol sniffing
    by Indigenous people

    These processes have identified the need
    for greater attention to be paid to petrol sniffing, including at the
    national level, and for more urgent responses to it where it exists. The
    phenomenon of petrol-sniffing is, however, not well-understood and there
    is no reliable national data on the number of people involved and the
    extent of resulting damage to individuals and communities. Peter d'Abbs
    and Maggie Brady have noted that:

    The situation today remains in many respects
    little different to what it was thirty years ago. There are still practically
    no clear policies at any levels of government; there is no accumulated
    body of knowledge about the nature and causes of sniffing, or even about
    the efficacy or effectiveness of different kinds of interventions, and
    most initiatives are forced to rely on short-term project funding, the
    continuance of which rarely has anything to do with program effectiveness.[17]

    In fact, petrol sniffing in Aboriginal and
    Torres Strait Islander communities continues to occupy a marginal position
    as a drug issue at the national level:

    As an issue for Australian drug policy,
    indigenous petrol sniffing is all but invisible. The National Drug Strategic
    Framework 1998-99 to 2002-03, endorsed by the Ministerial Council on
    Drug Strategy in November 1998, makes just two references to the issue.
    The first is to tell us that we don't know anything about its prevalence
    (among Indigenous Australians) ... The second reference, in effect, states
    that petrol sniffing is not good for you ...

    Similarly, the National Action Plan on
    Illicit Drugs 2001 to 2002-03, endorsed by the Ministerial Council on
    Drug Strategy in July 2000 skirts around the issue of inhalants by stating
    that they would be covered by a separate 'complementary' strategy ... for
    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander drug issues. A background paper
    prepared to accompany the National Action Plan includes a section titled
    'Illicit drug use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples'
    which makes no reference to inhalants, volatile substances or petrol

    Compared to the information available on
    other categories of substance misuse, d'Abbs and Brady suggest that "the
    vast untapped pool of professional expertise" [on petrol sniffing] looks
    somewhat shallow ...' [19] Paul Torzillo has
    commented that 'the lack of any sustained institutional interest in petrol
    sniffing among government agencies is matched by a dearth of high quality
    research.' [20] Consistent with this, there
    is a lack of systematic and comprehensive data on the extent, location
    and changes over time in petrol sniffing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait
    Islander communities.

    There are, however, reported instances of
    petrol sniffing as a significant issue in several Indigenous communities
    across Australia. In its recent report into the inhalation of volatile
    substances, the Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee of the Victorian
    Parliament summarised some published materials as follows:

    Petrol sniffing occurs in some Indigenous
    communities and not others. In 1989 it was reported as occurring mainly
    in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, in central Australia ... and
    in the Riverina region of New South Wales. In 1994, Brady and Torzillo
    argued that patterns had changed:

    It appears that the intensity of sniffing
    has increased over the past 20 years, with more users sniffing over
    longer periods, which has resulted in an increase in reported morbidity
    and mortality from the 1980s onward.

    However, since 1994 a further shift in
    patterns and prevalence of petrol sniffing seems to have occurred. A
    little-publicised but positive development of recent years has been
    the move by many Indigenous communities to use aviation fuel rather
    than petrol for vehicles. In several communities where a long and established
    history of petrol sniffing has existed, sniffing has been reduced or
    even stopped. Conversely, some communities which had previously been
    free of petrol sniffing are now reporting the practice. It has been
    reported in the Katherine region of the NT, Cape York in Queensland,
    south-west Queensland, western NSW and Northern Victoria. There is also
    evidence that Indigenous children are turning to the use of other volatile
    substances. Although petrol sniffing remains the primary form of volatile
    substance misuse among young Indigenous children, there are increasing
    reports of other forms (particularly glue and aerosol paint sniffing)
    in urban areas.[21]

    The Victorian parliamentary committee report
    also refers to studies identifying petrol sniffing by Indigenous youth
    as an issue in Perth. While acknowledging that there is very little research
    on the situation in Victoria, it also states that 'it is believed that
    chroming is a far more prevalent form of volatile substance abuse in Victoria,
    including among Indigenous Victorians, than petrol sniffing. It may be
    that this is an erroneous assumption.' [22]

    Petrol sniffing has also been identified
    as a 'major problem' among young Aboriginal people in recent years on
    Cape York Peninsula in the communities of Kowanyama, Aurukum, Napranum
    and Lockhart River; and as existing 'periodically and to a lesser extent'
    in northern Cape York towns such as Mapoon, Injinoo, Umagico, Bamaga and
    New Mapoon.[23] The Queensland government
    has also stated that 'petrol and aerosol sniffing are two of the most
    common kinds of substance abuse in Torres Strait Islander communities ...
    For some families, petrol and aerosol sniffing is an even bigger issue
    than grog abuse.'[24]

    There are also reports that petrol sniffing
    is periodically an issue faced in remote Aboriginal communities in Western
    Australia. Concern was recently expressed that petrol sniffing may have
    been a contributing factor in three deaths in the past two years at Balgo;[25] and the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku and community of Warburton have also
    recently expressed concerns about 'chronic substance abuse' and difficulties
    in law and justice responses to it.[26]

    In its interim report on issues of alcohol
    abuse, cannabis use and inhalant abuse, a Select Committee of the Northern
    Territory Parliament noted in February 2003 that:

    Petrol sniffing and other inhalant substance
    abuse is known to affect up to 30 remote communities in the Northern
    Territory. Inhalant substance abuse is most entrenched in the Central
    Australian region and the Tri State border region of the Northern Territory,
    South Australia and Western Australia ... [i.e, the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara
    and Yankunytjatjara lands]...

    In remote Central communities it is estimated
    that there are up to 350 'sniffers'. Sniffing is an endemic practice
    in at least six remote Central Australian communities.[27]

    The limited research also suggests
    that there are different patterns of use of petrol and other volatile
    substances by Indigenous people compared to non-Indigenous people. The
    Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee of the Victorian Parliament notes
    the following findings of several studies:

    • A survey of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in
      Perth showed that Indigenous users of volatile substances tended to
      use much more regularly, often on a daily basis and over a longer period
      of time than non-Indigenous users; and that petrol was one of the predominant
      solvents used (unlike for non-Indigenous youth);
    • Other studies have found that Indigenous youth are likely
      to use inhalants more intensively and for a longer duration than non-Indigenous
      urban youth, with one study reporting a mean duration of eight years
      for petrol sniffing (compared with only a brief period of experimentation
      for most non-Indigenous youth); and
    • a further study has argued that there are differences
      in inhalation culture and practices for Indigenous people depending
      on locality / remoteness. Relevant factors which influence this include
      the degree of community cohesion, local traditions, customs and the
      degree of cultural identification, the number of volatile substance
      abusers, access to resources and support, and other local factors.[28]

    In 2001, the Australian National Council
    on Drugs published a report examining the structural determinants of substance
    abuse. It states that petrol sniffing and volatile substance abuse by
    young Indigenous people, while clearly having some similarities with non-Indigenous
    people, must be viewed as part of a broader picture of Indigenous disadvantage:

    When combined with an environment stressed
    by poverty, racism and frequent bereavement, some remote Aboriginal
    communities have been beset by petrol sniffing among their young people.
    Indigenous communities with a history of involvement in the cattle industry
    were found by Brady to have resisted solvent-sniffing problems. This
    resilience was attributed to the independence, self-esteem and outlet
    for risk-taking afforded by involvement in the cattle industry. Individuals
    who had adopted Christianity or who valued other activities such as
    sport or fishing were also found to be resilient to sniffing solvents.
    Brady concluded that social and cultural factors are paramount in solving
    youth health problems such as solvent sniffing in Aboriginal communities.[29]

    d) Defining petrol sniffing in Indigenous communities
    as a public policy issue

    In her landmark 1989 publication Heavy
    Metal: the Social Meaning of Petrol Sniffing in Australia
    , Maggie
    Brady raises the question of how petrol sniffing is defined as a problem.
    She observes that while '[p]etrol sniffing by young people, often in groups,
    constitutes a threat, both physically and metaphorically to the social
    order', it is one among 'many behaviours that lead to impaired health
    and social functioning'.[30] Certainly other
    forms of addictive behaviour such as tobacco and alcohol addiction constitute
    more widespread sources of death and disease across Indigenous populations.

    With Peter d'Abbs, Maggie Brady has recently
    commented on how petrol sniffing makes its way onto the public policy

    Petrol sniffing erupts periodically into
    the living rooms or onto the breakfast tables of the public through
    highly sensational media exposes ... The media portrayal of Aboriginal
    petrol sniffing is worthy of a study in its own right; in particular,
    one might ask why acts of petrol sniffing are implicitly - and sometimes
    explicitly - represented not merely as instances of individual self-harm,
    but as evidence of a broader community social disintegration in a way
    that heroin use, for example, is never portrayed. [31]

    d'Abbs and Brady argue that this is indicative
    of structural problems in the way governments address issues of petrol
    sniffing in Indigenous communities. They argue that because of the lack
    of reliable data and the 'absence of any powerful lobby groups or other
    agencies with the capacity to ensure that petrol sniffing remains on the
    public agenda in anything more than a transient manner', petrol sniffing
    as a public issue 'owes almost everything to media outbursts ... what pressure
    for action that exists as a result is for quick, short term action'. [32]

    They argue that due to pressures to
    deal with other, chronic health issues in Indigenous communities combined
    with petrol sniffing not being a major contributor to indigenous morbidity
    or mortality, bureaucrats are more often than not pre-occupied with other
    health priorities. When there is media attention to the issue, they 'find
    themselves caught in a crossfire: pressured from outside ... to take action
    in response to a problem that is not, from where they sit, among their
    most critical challenges.' [33] d'Abbs and
    Brady see three inter-related consequences of this:

    • first, the agency will take some action but not be willing
      to divert resources from other areas that are seen as ongoing priorities;
    • second, the pressure to return to what are seen internally
      as more important priorities provides an incentive to make a one off
      gesture and refocus on other issues; and
    • third, there is unlikely to be within the agency or department
      much experience or networks of people with an ongoing interest in keeping
      petrol sniffing high on the agenda of priorities.[34]

    Petrol sniffing is therefore unlikely to
    become the subject of a long-term, sustained policy focus:

    [B]ecause petrol sniffing is not seen
    as a genuine on-going priority issue that falls neatly into any one
    department's or even one government's scope of responsibility, governments
    have tended not to engage in direct service provision, but rather to
    fund community-based groups and other non-government organisations to
    provide services. This, of course, also fits with the view of petrol
    sniffing as a community responsibility .... [I]n light of petrol sniffing's
    low ranking as a priority, most initiatives have been funded on an ad
    hoc, short term basis, with virtually no commitment to rigorous evaluation
    or to providing ongoing funding to those programs that demonstrate successful

    In these circumstances, it is difficult
    to consolidate an evidence base, to build and sustain links with existing
    expertise, or to maintain extensive corporate knowledge on the subject.
    By identifying petrol sniffing as an 'Indigenous problem' it has also
    been marginalised as a policy issue, with the result that it has not received
    the attention and resourcing that it may have if it had been positioned
    within mainstream substance misuse policy frameworks. Accordingly, D'Abbs
    and Brady comment that governments have tended to establish interagency
    committees as the main response to petrol sniffing:

    [I]n the absence of an evidence base, and because
    petrol sniffing where it occurs straddles political jurisdictions as
    well as departmental "silos", governments have tended to respond to
    petrol sniffing crises by convening high level inter-governmental committees
    involving commonwealth and state/territory officials. In no instances
    to date, however, have these committees succeeded in implementing a
    co-ordinated, sustained approach to the prevention or treatment of sniffing.[36]

    Petrol sniffing on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands:
    A case study

    a) Why a case study of the AP Lands?

    In the second half of 2003, the Social Justice
    Commissioner's unit of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
    (HREOC) conducted a research and consultation project into progress in
    addressing the Coronial recommendations on petrol sniffing on the AP Lands.
    HREOC staff visited the AP Lands as part of this project in September
    2003. Interviews and meetings were conducted in Adelaide and across the
    AP Lands with various government agencies (including those involved in
    the Council of Australian Government's whole-of-government community coordination
    trial on the AP Lands),[37] Aboriginal organisations,[38] and community members and elders on the lands.[39] HREOC also received a whole-of-government response from the South Australian
    government to the issues being considered.

    The decision to conduct a case study specifically
    on petrol sniffing on the AP Lands was based on a number of factors. The
    Social Justice Commissioner's office had been considering for some time
    ways that it might best be able to assist communities on the AP Lands
    to address problems associated with petrol sniffing. This was largely
    the result of concerns raised with HREOC by organisations such as the
    NPY Women's Council about petrol sniffing.[40]

    Similarly, the inquests conducted on the
    AP Lands in 2002 had provided much impetus for addressing petrol sniffing
    issues. The recommendations of the Inquests provide 'a blueprint for government
    to consider as the means best able to address the problems and provide
    the most likely long-term solutions.'[41] There is a clear need for expediency in following up the recommendations.
    This is particularly so given that the tardiness of government and other
    players in addressing petrol sniffing to date has been identified by the
    Anangu themselves, as well as by the Coroner, as a contributory factor
    to the escalation and embeddedness of the situation on the AP Lands.

    In the absence of systematic and comprehensive
    data on the extent and nature of petrol sniffing by Indigenous people,
    there is also much potential value in provide a discrete focus on the
    AP Lands in order to secure a higher policy profile for the issue of petrol
    sniffing. The AP Lands are also one of the areas across the country where
    there is some data on petrol sniffing and a history of dealing with the
    issue, as Nganampa Health Council has collated such information since

    As a case study, the AP Lands Coronial Inquest
    also has currency in light of recent policy debate about the need to address
    urgent problems in communities (drug and alcohol misuse, violent behaviour)
    versus the need to focus on the underlying causes of family and community
    dysfunction (inter-related social, economic, cultural and psychological
    factors) in overcoming Indigenous disadvantage. While the Coronial Inquest
    endorses a systematic, concerted approach to the AP Lands situation, indications
    are that interventions into petrol sniffing will need to be adapted to
    meet the needs of specific contexts:

    An important aspect of the Coroner's findings and recommendations
    is his recognition that petrol sniffing is such a complex problem
    or indeed series of problems to be faced by outback communities, that
    no individual measure will 'fix it', rather there needs to be a series
    of measures all operating synergistically together to have any prospect
    of long term success. For that reason alone progress should be monitored.[42]

    The AP Lands experience may also have ramifications for
    addressing other forms of addiction and at risk behaviour in communities
    (such as cannabis use, which is believed to have dramatically increased
    over the last five years on the AP Lands).[43] In previous Social Justice Reports, the Social Justice Commissioner
    has taken an interest in developing a human rights framework for monitoring
    and evaluating progress in addressing Indigenous disadvantage.[44] Given the Coroner's contextualisation of his recommendations in regard
    to underlying socio-economic factors and disadvantage, the use of benchmarks
    based on human rights standards could provide a framework for monitoring
    progress in addressing the AP Lands situation.

    Ultimately, the considerable poverty and socio-economic
    marginalisation identified as incubating and precipitating endemic petrol
    sniffing in Indigenous communities raises significant human rights concerns
    about the lack of equality in the provision of government services to
    Indigenous people on the AP Lands. It raises concerns regarding rights
    to adequate food, the highest attainable standard of health, education,
    decent work and adequate housing, and the lack of reasonable access
    to police services, in particular protection from self harm or harm
    to others in the community (rights to personal security, and to equal
    access to justice).

    There are also concerns regarding protection of the right
    of children. The Convention on the Rights of the Child affirms the right
    of children and young people to protection against drug abuse and other
    forms of abuse and neglect; and protects the enjoyment of the right
    to a reasonable standard of living, health and basic services; the right
    to education and the right to leisure. Under CROC, children and young
    people with special circumstances, such as those suffering disabilities
    or orphaned must be provided for, and there are also requirements concerning
    cultural sensitivity to Indigenous and other minority groups, and rehabilitative
    care for children suffering from deprivation. The disadvantage experienced
    by the Anangu is indicative of the ongoing failure to provide the full
    measure of human rights to which all Australians, including Indigenous
    peoples, are entitled. It is worthy of detailing the current situation
    for this reason alone.

    b) The extent of petrol sniffing on the AP Lands

    [I]t's the biggest shame that young people today in
    this part of the world are dying from petrol sniffing. And the neglect
    that I think has happened, has been going on for some time and that
    there is a reluctance for the wider community in Australia to take
    any responsibility or concern about it ... well let's be honest, there's
    been 30 years of neglect from government in this region across the
    whole board, not just petrol sniffing. But I do believe that if you
    address the issues of petrol sniffing, you're addressing the wider
    issues of the problems on the communities. It goes hand in hand. And
    you know, we have documented time and time and time again - communities
    have, the women have - that what is needed. We don't need more reports,
    we don't need more enquiries, we don't need more meetings with the
    government to say, 'What do you want'. Anangu have written it down
    time and time again.[45]

    The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands (AP Lands) cover an area
    of 160,000 square kilometres in the far north-west of South Australia.
    The area comprises one fifth of the state. The AP Lands were handed
    back to the traditional owners, the Anangu, under the Pitjantjatjara
    Land Rights Act 1981
    (SA). They form part of the larger remote cross-border
    region of Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory
    known as the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara lands.

    It is thought that petrol sniffing emerged as a problem
    on the AP Lands during the late 1960s. The recent Coronial Inquest found
    that the extent of petrol sniffing on the AP Lands had diminished in
    the early 1990s. However, there was also a 'reduction in effort towards
    tackling the problem' in the mid-1990s. This has led to a resurgence
    of petrol sniffing from at least 1998, with little achieved since then
    to restore the situation on the AP Lands to its pre-1995 position.[46]

    Data collected by Nganampa Health Council in 2000 indicates
    that the number of people engaged in petrol sniffing has increased from
    1999 to 2000 (from 111 to 166 people). This represents approximately
    6% of the Anangu population and 12% of the population aged between 10
    and 35 years of age.[47]

    This is a similar number to that observed on the AP Lands
    in 1984. This suggests a decline in the proportion of this age group
    engaged in petrol sniffing, given the overall growth in the total population
    (from approximately 1,700 in 1984 to 2,800 by the year 2000).[48]

    Available data also indicates that despite the increasing
    number of new recruits to petrol sniffing in the late 1990s, the total
    number of sniffers and people recruited to sniffing over the decade
    declined over the course of the decade. The data also reveals 'a fairly
    dramatic cohort effect since the 1980s':

    [T]he median age of petrol sniffers has
    increased markedly over this time and that in many communities the number
    of petrol sniffers over 25 years of age are in the majority. This means
    that a number of those who took up petrol sniffing 10, 15 or 20 years
    ago are still sniffing. This cohort effect has major implications for
    understanding the breadth of problems that occurs as a consequence of
    petrol sniffing and the different interventions that would be required.[49]

    One of the implications of an increase
    in the number of long-term or chronic sniffers is a greater degree of
    visibility of the problem and a higher level of impacts on the public
    order and functioning of communities. It also indicates a need for intervention
    at both ends of the problem, in addressing the increase in recruitment
    of sniffers as well as the issues associated with long term or chronic
    sniffers, such as rehabilitation and harm minimisation.

    c) The findings of the Coronial Inquests into petrol
    sniffing, September 2002

    Coroner Chivell concluded in the Coronial Inquests conducted
    on the AP Lands that the situation in 2002 is that:

    Petrol sniffing is endemic on the Anangu
    Pitjantjatjara lands. It has caused and continues to cause devastating
    harm to the community, including approximately 35 deaths in the last
    20 years in a population of between 2,000 and 2,500. Serious disability,
    crime, cultural breakdown and general grief and misery are also the

    The first recommendation of the Coroner in the inquest reflects
    the serious contemporary impact of petrol sniffing on the community:

    1. That Commonwealth, State and Territory
    Governments recognise that petrol sniffing poses an urgent threat to
    the very substance of the Anangu communities on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara
    Lands. It threatens not only death and serious and permanent disability,
    but also the peace, order and security of communities, cultural and
    family structures, education, health and community development.[51]

    A summary of the findings of the Coroner
    and his recommendations for action have been extracted as an appendix
    to this report (see Appendix 3). A key finding of the Coroner was that
    the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in
    Custody have not been complied with by the Commonwealth or state governments,
    and that this 'will, if it is not addressed, lead to severe disability
    and further deaths, not to mention continuing social dislocation, crime,
    loss of culture and general community degradation and loss'[52] on the AP Lands. The concerns of the Coroner regarding this are also extracted
    in Appendix 3.

    The findings and recommendations of the Coroner can be grouped
    into the following two key issues:

    • i) Coordination, funding and action by Government: Concerns were expressed about the failure of governments to consult
      appropriately and significant delay in implementing programs, with a
      need for governments to move beyond the 'information gathering' stage.
      The Inquest highlights the need for governments to re-assess their coordination
      of policy and funding approaches to service delivery on the AP Lands;
    • ii) Specific interventions for addressing petrol sniffing: The Inquest identifies the need to adopt a combination of primary,
      secondary and tertiary interventions relating to health and justice
      issues in order to combat petrol sniffing, combined with strategies
      to address the significant disadvantage and lack of services on the
      AP Lands, which forms the environment in which petrol sniffing takes

    The Coronial Inquest recognised the need
    for broader government and community responsibility, and made a series
    of recommendations (Recs 1-7; 8.14, 8.15) urging re-assessment of current
    Commonwealth and State funding and policy strategies in finding solutions
    to the problem of petrol sniffing in the AP Lands. The recommendations
    directed towards the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments included
    the need to:

    • recognise the threat which petrol sniffing poses to Anangu
      communities on the AP Lands (Rec 1);
    • recognise the role played by broader socio-economic factors
      in causing petrol sniffing on the AP Lands (Rec 2);
    • recognise the responsibility of government and the broader
      Australian community to address petrol sniffing (Rec 3);
    • move existing intergovernmental approaches beyond the
      information-gathering stage and to utilise existing knowledge and expertise
      to find solutions to petrol sniffing on the AP Lands forthwith (Rec
    • address existing fragmentation of service delivery through
      improved inter-governmental coordination (Rec 5);
    • establish a more substantial Commonwealth and state government
      presence on the AP Lands and develop more stable relationships with
      Anangu, including greater certainty of funding arrangements (Rec 6);
    • recruit qualified and experienced staff to the AP Lands
      (Rec 8.11);
    • recognise the interdependent nature of program interventions
      and adopt a longer term, multi-faceted approach to addressing petrol
      sniffing (Rec's 7, 8.14); and
    • assess initiatives against the recommendations of the
      Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (Rec 8.15).

    The remaining recommendations address more
    specifically the different levels of interventions needed from prevention
    and deterrence through to rehabilitation. Recommendations which have become
    the responsibility of health agencies include:

    • appointing four youth-workers and a youth-work coordinator
      (Rec 8.1);
    • Assessing petrol sniffers on a neurological and neuro-physical
      basis for rehabilitation and disability services (Rec 8.2);
    • Establishing a culturally appropriate Homelands/Outstations
      Programme (Rec 8.3);
    • Continuing funding for the Commonwealth Avgas initiative
      (Rec 8.4);
    • Evaluating the role of the Department of Families and
      Youth Services (SA) in relation to children at risk on the AP Lands,
      including considering the adoption of a more proactive community development
      approach (Rec 8.8); and
    • Urgent upgrading of the level of services for disabled
      victims of petrol sniffing (Rec 8.9).

    Justice issues covered by the recommendations
    relate to strengthening of the police presence in the AP Lands and the
    need for greater deterrence of petrol sniffing and related disruptive
    behaviours. They include:

    • Increasing the range of sentencing options available
      to courts sitting on the AP Lands, resourcing non-custodial options
      such as outstations and a secure care facility, as well as increasing
      the presence of Correctional Service supervisors to ensure that undertakings,
      bonds and community service orders can be enforced (Rec 8.5);
    • Amending the Public Intoxication Act to extend
      its application to the AP Lands and declare petrol or hydrocarbons a
      drug for the purposes of the Act (Rec 8.6);
    • Canvassing support for the establishment of night patrols
      as part of an overall crime prevention strategy on the AP Lands (Rec
    • Planning for the establishment of secure care facilities
      on the AP Lands, to fulfil a range of roles including detention, detoxification,
      treatment and rehabilitation (Rec 8.10);
    • Immediate establishment of a police presence on the AP
      Lands, through implementation of the recommendations of the SAPOL review
      of the Community Constable Scheme (Rec 8.12); and
    • Improvement to existing levels of policing on the AP
      Lands, through addressing issues relating to staffing at Marla (Rec

    Progress in responding to the recommendations of
    the Coronial Inquest into petrol sniffing on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara

    In this section, progress in addressing
    the recommendations of the Coronial Inquest is considered in relation
    to the following four themes:

    • Inter-governmental and inter-agency coordination;
    • Resourcing issues;
    • Health related issues; and
    • Justice related issues.[53]

    a) Inter-governmental and Inter-agency coordination

    Fundamental to the recommendations made
    by the Coroner is the observation that government agencies have been stuck
    for too long in the information-gathering stage at the expense of taking
    action to address longstanding service delivery issues confronting the
    AP Lands:

    There is no need for further information
    gathering, and there is a vast untapped pool of professional expertise
    to be utilised. What is missing is prompt, forthright, properly planned,
    properly funded action.[54]

    The Coroner recognised that properly planned
    and funded action is reliant on the development of an '[i]nter-Governmental
    coordination of approach ... in order to avoid the fragmentation of effort
    and confusion and alienation of service-providers'.[55] He also stipulated that the support of the broader community be enlisted
    in addressing petrol sniffing on the AP Lands:

    The fact that the wider Australian community
    has a responsibility to assist Anangu to address the problem of petrol
    sniffing, which has no precedent in traditional culture, is clear. Governments
    should not approach the task on the basis that the solutions must come
    from Anangu communities alone.[56]

    The need for interagency coordination or
    holistic or whole-of-government approaches, and the need to avoid duplication
    of services and to target Indigenous disadvantage more effectively, have
    become familiar themes in policy debate on Indigenous service delivery.
    The necessity of changing the ways in which governments do business with
    Indigenous communities has particular pertinence in light of the recent
    focus of Indigenous policy on capacity-building and governance.[57]

    Since the Coronial Inquest, one of the most
    consistent comments made about the inter-agency approach to the Coroner's
    recommendations by those whom HREOC consulted with is that it has continued
    to be piecemeal rather than systematic and has been characterised by a
    reluctance to take action. In the words of one community organisation
    member, 'there have been many references to the Coroner's recommendations
    but a failure to act'. In response, government officials often highlight
    the difficulties in making progress on petrol sniffing-related issues
    on the AP Lands, given the long-standing and intractable nature of the
    problems, and the need to consult properly and effectively with Anangu.

    This section of the chapter will address
    concerns in regard to the question of the degree of responsibility to
    be exercised by both Anangu and government in responding to the Coronial

    • Government coordination of policies and programmes

    It is necessary to begin with some background
    on the history and composition of the coalitions of government agencies
    responding to petrol sniffing and related service delivery issues on the
    AP Lands. Recommendation 4 of the Coronial Inquest identifies the major
    government avenues for coordination of services and action in addressing
    petrol sniffing:

    The Commonwealth Government, through the
    Central Australian Cross Border Reference Group [CBRG], and the South
    Australian Government through the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands Inter-Governmental
    Inter-Agency Collaboration Committee [APLIICC], should accelerate their
    efforts to find solutions to these issues and get beyond the 'information
    gathering' phase forthwith. They should use the extensive knowledge,
    published material and professional expertise that is already available.[58]

    The Coroner had acknowledged that the establishment
    of bodies such as the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands Inter-Governmental Inter-Agency
    Collaboration Committee (or APLIICC Tier One & Tier 2 committees) and
    the Central Australian Cross Border Reference Group (or CBRG) was met
    with a generally favourable response.[59] He noted, however, that there were concerns that resources are not making
    a significant difference to the lives of people on the AP Lands. The APLIICC
    (also known as 'Tier One') was established in August 2000 by the previous
    South Australian state government in order to facilitate a cross-portfolio
    commitment of senior executives at State and Commonwealth levels to respond
    to disadvantage in the region, particularly issues such as the persistence
    of poor health and impoverished conditions on the AP Lands despite the
    level of expenditure on services.[60]

    Tier One of the APLIICC comprises a core
    group of chief executives from the state government, APY Land Council,
    Nganampa Health Council and the Commonwealth Department for Health and
    Ageing. Originally, there was a second tier of working groups composed
    of senior project and policy officers from state and commonwealth agencies
    based in Adelaide who were responsible for implementing the directives
    of Tier One. This has since been replaced by a series of task forces that
    are to implement projects and activities identified as Tier One priorities.
    There was also a Petrol Sniffing Task Force (PSTF), established in November
    2001 by the previous SA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to tackle petrol
    sniffing specifically, which has since been subsumed into the activities
    of the Tier One Committee.

    There are two further groups with Commonwealth
    and state representation to address issues emerging from the Ngaanyatjaraa
    Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara cross border region which straddles the
    Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. The Central
    Australian Cross Border Reference Group on Volatile Substance Abuse (CBRG)
    was established in response to the findings of a review of Commonwealth
    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Substance Misuse Programs in 1999.
    A cross-jurisdictional forum was held in Adelaide on 20 March 2001, which
    agreed to address the issue of improving coordination in the delivery
    of volatile substance use through the establishment of a tri-state reference
    group (the CBRG), who would have carriage of the implementation and monitoring
    of the framework to address volatile substance abuse in the area.

    The NPY Lands Tri-Jurisdictional Justice
    Group was established in early 2003 to examine legislation and policies
    that will enable the courts and police to operate across borders in order
    to establish collaborative mechanisms and infrastructure to police the
    NPY Lands. The working group includes representatives from police, justice,
    health, education, Aboriginal Affairs agencies and local government. In
    addition to commissioning a study on the demographics of the region (population
    breakdown, movement patterns, offending and prison population data, language
    profiles and so forth), the group aims to develop a coordinated approach
    to shared facilities and programs, including culturally appropriate early
    release and rehabilitation programs (including community detention options),
    the potential establishment of a low security detention/alternative facility
    in Alice Springs or on the Lands, and the possible use of the Alice Springs
    Correctional Centre by WA and SA.

    Since the Coronial Inquest, the AP Lands
    have also been designated as the South Australian trial site for the Council
    of Australian Government's (COAG) whole-of-government, whole-of-community
    trials. The APLIICC has been chosen to provide the interface between government
    and the communities on the AP Lands. In the joint media release announcing
    the nomination of the AP Lands as a trial site, the SA Minister for Aboriginal
    Affairs and Reconciliation Terry Roberts states:

    This trial will build on positive initiatives
    already under way on the AP Lands, such as the work of the AP Lands
    Inter-government Inter-agency Collaboration Committee (Tier One), of
    which the South Australian Government, the Commonwealth, ATSIC and AP
    Council are all members.[61]

    The AP Lands were identified by the South
    Australian government as an appropriate focus for the COAG trial because
    of the level of need in the area, the existence of the APLIICC as a structure
    to facilitate the trial and the compatibility of its aims with those of

    In early September 2003, there was a meeting
    (the 'Shared Responsibility' workshop) in Alice Springs of government
    and community representatives which sought to set priorities for the COAG
    trial. The two priorities which were nominated for action were Mai
    , a stores policy program addressing issues of nutrition, pricing
    and stores management training, and rural transaction centres, a project
    to establish permanent facilities in each major community for banking,
    government agencies and service providers.

    Another significant decision included agreement
    that an Allocation Committee consisting of nominees from Community Councils,
    Homelands Groups, Nganampa Health and APY Women's Group be established.
    This fifteen member committee is to be chaired by the Chairperson of the
    APY Land Council and is to assist in the disbursement of funds. This decision
    aims to ensure that all stakeholders will have a clear understanding of
    the funding situation for the AP Lands, as well as a say in the distribution
    of monies on the Lands. The Allocation Committee will also work in conjunction
    with the State Government in considering budget bids for future years.
    The APY Land Council will be given additional financial support for their
    role in assisting the Allocation Committee.

    To support these new arrangements an Office
    of the APY Lands has been established within the SA Department for Aboriginal
    Affairs and Reconciliation, which will include a liaison person on the
    Lands to work with the APY Executive and then to develop relationships
    with Aboriginal communities. This initiative responds to Recommendation
    6 from the Coronial Inquest which directed Commonwealth and State Governments
    to establish a presence in the region, 'if not on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara
    Lands then at least in Alice Springs, of senior trusted officials',[62] and to criticism made by the Coroner that too much of the bureaucratic
    activity was Adelaide or Canberra-based. The liaison person is to be well-briefed
    in order to deal with a range of issues. There is a perceived need to
    discuss with APY Land Council Executive what appropriate liaison with
    communities would constitute - to take a partnership approach rather than
    to impose a structure.

    Canberra and Adelaide-based bureaucrats
    from the Cross-Border Reference Groups have also made attempts to spend
    time defining their relationship with the APY Executive. Officials also
    acknowledged the need to learn how to work with local Indigenous governance
    structures, time frames and ways of doing business, and that maintaining
    continuity of staff over time was a significant issue, as well as the
    development of longer-term relationships and processes in order to bring
    about lasting change on the AP Lands. They noted the need to consult appropriately
    with Anangu and the need for adequate time in which to conduct culturally-appropriate

    While an appropriate consultation process
    takes time and can be seen to delay the introduction of urgently needed
    resources, it is considered vital to successful work in the APY Lands. [63]

    The South Australian government also has
    allocated funds to support a series of initiatives on the AP Lands, including
    $76,000 towards implementing an improvement in road planning projects
    with ongoing planning assistance; $155,000 to commence a three-year program
    for redeveloping the arts centres in the region; $200,000 to support programs
    for the removal of feral animals from Indigenous owned protected areas
    and to enhance native plants and animals; and programs aimed at developing
    mining activity on the Lands, particularly in working with traditional
    owners from APY to identify exploration opportunities on the land, and
    in facilitating opportunities such as a youth geotechnical traineeship

    It is also anticipated that the allocation
    of $2 million over four years for the Department of Administrative and
    Information Services to provide staff housing on the AP Lands will assist
    in responding to the establishment of a state and commonwealth government
    presence in the region. Options for duplex style housing have been recommended
    to the Tier One Committee and have been approved for tender.

    A critical issue for the APLIICC / COAG
    trial process as the major interface between government and AP Lands communities
    is whether it will have the capacity to overcome some of the previous
    issues of coordination facing the various committees (i.e, Tier One, CBRG
    and PSTF) in order to facilitate a more effective approach to tackling
    the problem of petrol sniffing. That is, whether these interagency structures
    and processes will be able to provide a different way of working with

    Related to this question are issues concerning
    the representation of the Anangu and their level of participation in identifying
    and progressing solutions. Consideration also needs to be given to the
    question of whether it is possible to change the way governments do business
    with communities or whether policy-making and bureaucratic processes inevitably
    foreclose the potential to make progress on an issue such as petrol-sniffing
    on the AP Lands.

    • A different way of doing business?

    The COAG whole-of-government trials, of
    which the AP Lands are a trial site, are being piloted to develop a whole-of-government,
    whole-of-community approach to capacity-building and governance issues
    in designated areas across the country. Shared Responsibility, Shared
    , the information pamphlet for participating communities, describes
    the purpose of the COAG trials in the following terms:

    Many people are saying that the relationship
    between the community and the governments has got to change. It is clear
    that some of the ways that governments and communities approach their
    responsibilities needs to be done differently if we are going to move
    forward together.

    Recently, Commonwealth and State and Territory
    governments have agreed to improve their approach. They have agreed
    to work together .... And they have agreed to work in partnership with
    Indigenous communities to support them find and manage sustainable solutions
    to local problems. This means government have agreed to learn new ways
    of doing business with Indigenous communities[64]

    Similar comments were made at the Inquest
    by Albert Barelds, the Executive Manager of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara
    Lands Project Team, who said that both commonwealth and state governments
    have acknowledged that there is:

    A need for a different way of working
    with Anangu; there is a clear understanding that what government has
    undertaken to date has not led to the lifestyle, the improvements that
    were anticipated. In order to do so, it was felt that a different way
    of working with Anangu is needed and therefore a number of initiatives
    were taken to talk with both the Anangu Pitjantjatjara and elected members
    of all the community councils, as well as the service providers, to
    communicate directly with the Anangu to see how a new relationship between
    government and Anangu could be built to improve their situation.[65]

    The broader policy context for the COAG
    trials is the federal government's emphasis on mutual obligation and the
    responsibility of all players (government, communities, families and individuals)
    to address issues of social and economic participation that has featured
    in its welfare reform package and practical reconciliation approach to
    Indigenous issues. It is also aligned with an emphasis on self-empowerment
    and self-management in contrast to the perceived 'failure' of self-determination
    and the rights agenda to bring about change to Indigenous peoples' socio-economic

    One of the challenges for this policy framework
    is achieving an appropriate and equitable balance of responsibilities
    between all participating parties. The federal Minister for Indigenous
    Affairs in 2002 described this challenge as follows:

    The key to this initiative is that neither
    governments nor Indigenous communities can do it all on their own. We
    must work together, work in partnership and share responsibility for
    improving outcomes and building the capacity of people in communities
    to manage their own affairs.[66]

    Government departments participating in
    the COAG trial on the AP Lands have emphasised their need to develop culturally-appropriate
    structures and processes, and to learn how to work with local Indigenous
    governance arrangements, time-frames and ways of doing business. As discussed
    above, the APLIICC Tier One / COAG process has given a substantial role
    to the APY Executive as the gateway to local Indigenous communities and
    groups in consultation and decision-making processes, including those
    relating to the allocation of funds for activities on the Lands. This
    approach has been taken in the interests of supporting Indigenous self-empowerment
    and participation, with joint agreement to be reached with the APY Executive
    on outcomes, and support for Anangu by the bureaucracy with grants and
    services through this structure.

    However, concerns have been raised about
    the appropriateness of representative structures for Anangu to date in
    this process, particularly in regard to the level of responsibility given
    to APY Executive. While government departments and agencies present the
    APLIICC Tier One / COAG process as a means of self-determination, the
    perception of community-controlled organisations with a longstanding history
    of involvement in the AP Lands (such as Nganampa Health Council and NPY
    Women's Council) is that this process has shifted the focus away from
    Anangu and how they do business.

    These organisations suggest that in marrying
    the APLIICC Tier One process to the COAG Trial, the intergovernmental
    approach to addressing problems on the AP Lands has become increasingly
    bureaucratic, impeding the possibility of responding effectively to substance
    misuse and other issues. There are also continuing complaints about the
    distance of bureaucrats from the AP Lands, their level of experience and
    corporate knowledge in dealing with AP issues, especially those of volatile
    substance misuse.[67]

    Community-controlled organisations claim
    that better use could be made of their corporate knowledge and established
    networks with the Anangu. The response from government officials to this
    criticism is that APLIICC Tier One was limited to representation by key
    executives from Indigenous organisations and government agencies in order
    to be more streamlined in their processes.

    The appropriateness of the APY executive
    as an appropriate representative body for liaison with the Anangu communities
    has also been raised as a matter of concern. At the Inquest, John Tregenza,
    a consultant with a background in community development on the AP Lands,
    commented that there was a general lack of understanding by government
    about Anangu forms of representation. Whereas governments tend to identify
    a boss for liaison and negotiations with a community, the concept of democratic
    representation is alien to Anangu culture -- you represent yourself and
    your family. Additional issues relate to the capacity of APY Executive
    to represent Anangu on matters other than those relating to its traditional
    core business, that of land management.

    In his Review of delivery of services
    to people with disabilities on Anangu Pitjantjatjara lands
    , Tregenza
    articulates the case for extending representation beyond the networks
    of the APY Executive to include those of other organisations as follows:

    From time to time a misconception seems
    to arise among policy-makers and funding agencies that AP [Anangu Pitjantjatjara
    Executive] is the peak body in all matters. While it is true that AP
    have responsibility for all matters relating to the administration of
    the Lands on behalf of all the traditional owners of the lands (all
    Anangu), responsibility for the delivery of many other services has
    always been in the hands of other Anangu regional organisations.

    The administrative structure on the AP
    Lands does not parallel State or Commonwealth governments. AP is not
    the 'parliament' and only decision making forum, and, every other service
    organisation is not a department tof [sic] AP. AP Council is one of
    a group of independent, community controlled organisations with their
    own governing Boards of Management (Councils) elected by the same group
    of traditional owners. Currently these organisations are Nganampa Health
    Council (which came into existence at the same time as AP and well before
    AP Services), NPY Women's Council (1980), Pitjantjatara Yangkuntjatjara
    Education Council (PYEC). Each of the organisations was established,
    and has a separate elected governing body, because Anangu considered
    that the area covered by each was so complex that no single organisations
    could do all the issues justice ....

    It is therefore essential that any consultation
    and discussions of issues with Anangu representatives from the Lands
    must include representatives from all the Anangu community-controlled
    organisations, and not just from AP Council and/or AP Services. Failure
    to include all the stakeholders in the consultative, planning and decision-making
    processes will only ensure the long term failure of regional programs
    and projects.[68]

    The existence of serious governance and
    service delivery issues in the Executive Board of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara
    and the Pitjantjatjara Council executive were also identified in a report
    by Dr Mick Dodson. In August 2002 the Dodson Report found problems with
    the administration of the Pitjantjatjara Lands Rights Act and the
    Anangu Pitjantjatjara Board, with Dr Dodson observing that:

    I think there are some serious governance
    issues that need to be addressed. At the moment, it is my strong view
    that the AP Executive Board is unrepresentative, undemocratic, unaccountable,
    and seriously confused about its role and future role. I also have had
    numerous anecdotal commentaries on the possible misuse of Board funds
    to suggest at the very least it should be explored. From what I have
    been told I suspect the problem is a systemic one ... [69]

    The SA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and
    Reconciliation has since headed a Parliamentary Select Committee inquiry
    into the Pitjantjatjara Lands Rights Act , with an administrator
    now having been appointed to administer the Act. The APLLICC Tier One
    Committee has also focused intensively on issues of governance and service
    delivery with the APY Executive over the last twelve months. However,
    Mr Tregenza's and Dr Dodson's comments would seem to corroborate concerns
    about the capacity of the APY Executive to represent Anangu effectively
    and the need to access broader networks of representation beyond its structures.

    A further expressed concern is that government
    is setting the communities up to fail, partly through over-reliance on
    the APY Executive as a gateway, but more particularly through the expectation
    that the communities should address their own problems, especially those
    relating to volatile substance abuse. This is frequently framed not only
    in the discourse of shared responsibility but also that of self-determination.
    In their article recent article on the policy response to Indigenous petrol
    sniffing in Australia, d'Abbs and Brady observe:

    Central to these changes in the domain
    of governing Indigenous Australians is the strategy of enlisting "communities"
    to the work of governance. Under this strategy, Aboriginal communities
    are expected to articulate desires and aspirations which are then taken
    as authentic manifestations of "self-determination" - as long as they
    accord more or less with what the state wants them to choose.[70]

    A kind of 'moral panic' has emerged in the emphasis on responsibility
    in the public discourse on Indigenous policy and the expressed need for
    Indigenous individuals and communities to address problems such as violence,
    drug and alcohol abuse. This predominantly moral perspective has the effect
    of narrowing the focus of Indigenous policy debate to obscure the broader
    systemic factors contributing to the marginalisation and disadvantage
    experienced by Indigenous families and communities.

    It is undoubtedly empowering for individuals
    and communities to exercise control over and to participate in finding
    solutions to problems that threaten their security and survival. While
    there is some evidence that strong governance in communities can have
    a role to play in addressing substance abuse, as the success of zero tolerance
    policies in petrol sniffing in communities such as Watarru and Ngaanyatjarra
    indicates, there are limits to what good community governance can achieve.
    The level of responsibility by government in providing services and resources,
    particularly when there is an outstanding history of the failure to provide
    access to services commensurate with the mainstream population, needs
    careful evaluation.

    In the case of volatile substance abuse
    on the AP Lands, it seems problematic to suggest that the Anangu through
    the auspices of the APY Executive (an organisation with a background in
    land management), should assume responsibility for the carriage of programs
    and services relating to problems such as the rehabilitation of sniffers
    - that is, beyond consultation about and participation in determining
    solutions to these problems. d'Abbs and Brady pose the following question:
    'How, one must ask, can communities said to be wracked by disempowerment
    and social deterioration be expected to "originate and control" actions
    in response to petrol sniffing?' [71]

    The Coronial Inquest emphasised the Anangu's
    need for outside assistance in addressing issues of volatile substance
    abuse, which has no precedent in their traditiional culture. At the inquest,
    the father of Kunmanara Thompson likened the introduction of petrol sniffing
    to the imposition of the Maralinga bomb tests:

    There has been petrol sniffing since the
    1950s. Who is responsible? The petrol doesn't belong to us. It is not
    part of Anangu law. It was introduced to the Lands by white people.
    It is important that Anangu revive their culture and hold on to their
    culture. The problem with petrol comes from outside, it's like the Maralinga
    bomb tests, the solution should come from the outside too.[72]

    As Dr Paul Torzillo, the Medical Director
    of Nganampa Health Council, points out, mainstream communities with higher
    living standards and more available services and resources would not be
    expected to solve their own substance abuse problems:

    [T]here seems to be a widespread view
    within government ... that this is a problem which the community should
    solve, this is their responsibility. This is a community with less resources
    and ability to control a tough problem than any mainstream community ...
    that's not a demand that's put on any other community in the country.
    No-one, no politician and no bureaucracy expects that a suburb like
    - so the people of Cabramatta are not told that they have to solve the
    heroin problem and it's up to them to do it. No-one makes that demand
    of them and they don't make that demand of them because it's a stupid
    thing to do, it's clearly not possible.[73]

    The implicit danger of the current government
    discourse on shared responsibility in Indigenous policy is that it will
    not provide resources which are adequate or even commensurate with those
    it provides to the non-Indigenous population in addressing the problems
    surrounding volatile substance abuse.

    • The bureaucratisation of community development?

    There is a conflict of opinion about whether
    these governmental and bureaucratic processes are appropriate for pursuing
    self-determination on the AP Lands, and moreover, whether they might in
    fact impede progress in petrol sniffing-related issues. It is sometimes
    suggested that the government's current emphasis on capacity-building,
    which is a feature of the COAG trials, merely amounts to the bureaucratisation
    of what was formerly called community development.

    One concern that has been commonly expressed
    to HREOC is that the alliance with the COAG trial will merely contribute
    to an unnecessary degree of bureaucratisation already implicit in the
    APLIICC Tier One committee process and that an adequate response to the
    Inquest might be overlooked in giving carriage to the business of the
    COAG trial and the other priorities nominated for address on the AP Lands.

    Despite these reservations about the bureaucratically
    top-heavy way of doing business that capacity-building and inclusion in
    the government's COAG trials might represent, there is also some optimism
    that the involvement of the Commonwealth might be a source of greater
    leverage to achieve some effective outcomes where the actions of states
    and territories have been ineffectual in the past.

    Responsibility for tackling petrol sniffing
    lies across several government agency portfolios and as an issue, Indigenous
    petrol sniffing has a tendency to fall through the gaps in public policy.
    The COAG trial could have the capacity to make a more concentrated effort
    in addressing the problems facing the AP Lands as a discrete area, and
    provide greater impetus for Commonwealth and state governments to make
    a coordinated and consolidated effort in addressing petrol sniffing. In
    addition, the national spotlight of the COAG trials has the potential
    to engender a greater degree of accountability from all levels of government.

    b) Resourcing issues

    There were three main areas of comment about
    funding issues in the findings of the Coronial Inquest. The Coroner perceived
    the need for a greater injection of funding and resources; funding of
    programmes on a triennial basis, as recommended by the Royal Commission
    into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody; and the provision of funding for interventions
    into petrol sniffing, including continued Commonwealth funding of the
    Avgas initiative through the Comgas scheme (this final issue is discussed
    in relation to health related issues later in this chapter).

    • An inadequate level of resourcing

    Information presented to the Coronial Inquest
    indicated that the combined Commonwealth and State funding for the AP
    Lands is:

    approximately $60 million per year for
    around 3,000 people of whom 2,500 are Anangu, making a per capita funding
    rate of about $20,000 per year .... When the CDEP and Centrelink funds
    ($16 million) are excluded, the figure drops to around $15,000 per capita.[74]

    Very substantial increases in government
    funding are required to deal with problems relating to remoteness, such
    as access to mainstream services, and, more specifically in regard to
    petrol sniffing, to achieve the continuum of care from prevention to treatment
    and rehabilitation.

    The issues surrounding Indigenous funding
    needs, and equity and access to services particularly in remote areas
    were canvassed by the Commonwealth Grants Commission's Report into
    Indigenous Funding 2001
    (the CGC Report). A significant aspect of
    the terms of reference set by the federal government for the CGC Report
    was an approach based on redistribution of funding according to the principle
    of relative need (that is, between regions) as opposed to absolute need
    (that is, in contrast to the rest of the population), with the intention
    of considering redistribution of funds to favour remote areas. However,
    the CGC's final report found that this approach was flawed in terms of
    addressing the inequity in this area. It commented that:

    Indigenous people in all regions have
    high needs relative to the non-Indigenous population. An important question
    is whether new methods of distribution should be applied to existing
    programs and funds. Any change in methods of distributing existing resources
    means that some regions would lose funding and others would gain. Large
    redistributions risk losing the benefits of investments made over long
    periods of time, including those in developing organisational capacity
    and people. The real costs of redistribution may be high.[75]

    A further dimension of the funding issue
    is the significant problem of accountability for service delivery to Indigenous
    peoples which remains at the state and territory level. There is a longstanding
    need for clear agreement among the states and the federal government about
    their respective responsibilities to Indigenous peoples, how they will
    act to meet these responsibilities and the resources to be committed by
    all parties. The distribution of state and territory funds for Indigenous
    service delivery is also the area where there exists the least transparency
    and greatest cost shifting.

    In July 2003 the South Australian government
    announced a series of additional funding commitments totalling almost
    $12 million over four years for initiatives on the AP Lands in its 2003-04
    budget. In doing so, it 'acknowledged the longstanding social problems
    created by petrol sniffing on the AP Lands ... and the recommendations of
    Coroner Chivell's report.'[76] The four main
    areas of commitment are:

    • $8.163 million over four years for Department of Health
      Services health and wellbeing initiatives that impact directly on petrol
      sniffing, and for regional office and respite initiatives;
    • $1 million over four years for policing and justice initiatives
      on the Lands;
    • $797,000 over four years to the Department of Aboriginal
      Affairs and Reconciliation for the introduction of legally licensed
      electrical operators; and
    • $2 million over four years for the Department of Administration
      and Information Services to provide staff housing on the Lands.

    Some of the questions that emerge from AP
    Lands situation concern not only what would be a sufficient injection
    of funds to address petrol sniffing and its attendant problems, but what
    kind of funding arrangements, commitments and time-frames could be implemented,
    in conjunction with the Commonwealth, to do so?

    In an article that appeared earlier this
    year in the Adelaide Review, Chris Charles commented that the findings
    of the CGC Report could be used by the SA govt to secure a greater share
    of per capita Commonwealth funding by highlighting the funding needs of
    the Anangu.[77] Working with an assumption
    that the cost difference for delivering services to the AP Lands as a
    whole will be greater than the 212% difference between NSW and the NT,
    they put forward the following hypothetical calculation to support their
    argument for greater funds for the AP Lands:

    NT is dominated by Darwin and so lets
    say delivery to remote areas such as the AP Lands is twice the difference,
    translating to a dollar figure of $4890 per head. The relative capacity
    to pay for these services can be estimated from data presented by Mr
    Chivell which show that personal per capita income of Anangu people
    is around $7000 per capita (mainly from CDEP, the Aboriginal peoples
    work-for-the-dole scheme which provides $16 million to 2,500 people).
    If we add to that some of the value of services delivered to the AP
    Lands and already under Anangu control, we might double the per capita
    income, making it 63% of the average South Australian income of about
    $22000. When the adjustments are made, this comparison says that to
    bring education, health, law and order and welfare of the 3000 people
    on the AP Lands up to the standards the rest of us enjoy, we need to
    spend at least $22 million more, each year, on an accrual basis. Of
    course, before we spend the money a proper plan and an itemised costing
    needs to be done but we know that more than the $12.4 million is justified
    and that more than $12.4 million will be needed.[78]

    It appears that the current allocation of
    funds by the South Australian and Commonwealth governments combined is
    not enough to address the needs of the petrol sniffers in terms of intervention
    and service delivery needs. The SA government's allocation of the $12.4
    million will not be sufficient if it is to be a one-off allocation, and
    continuous assessment of these funding issues is necessary in any future
    budgetary arrangements in order to make inroads on the issues confronting
    the AP Lands.

    One interesting possibility raised by the
    choice of the AP Lands as a COAG trial site is whether this may provide
    leverage for negotiating a greater injection of funds in the future. While
    the COAG Trials are not primarily a source of funding in themselves, the
    emphasis on finding better ways for government agencies to work with Indigenous
    communities, including improvement of service delivery coordination and
    outcomes, should have the potential to negotiate more targeted funding

    Another strategy might be the use of the
    COAG trial to set and ensure compliance with performance conditions on
    grants to states and territories (for example, specific purpose payments)
    affecting service delivery to the AP Lands. Given that the COAG Trials
    have the potential to support sustainable development in Indigenous communities,
    they could also provide a forum for exploring the implementation of some
    of the longer-term and more flexible funding arrangements recommended
    by reports such as the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
    and the Commonwealth Grants Commission.

    • More flexible, long term funding arrangements

    In 1991 the Royal Commission into Aboriginal
    Deaths in Custody made recommendations for longer term, more flexible
    forms of funding arrangements which would ensure increased Indigenous
    participation. In particular, it recommended that Commonwealth, State
    and Territory governments introduce triennial block grant funding for
    Indigenous organisation, and that wherever possible this funding be allocated
    through a single source with one set of audit and financial requirements
    but with the maximum devolution of power to the communities and organisations
    to determine the priorities for the allocation of such funds.

    In part, Coroner Chivell's rationale for
    recommending the funding of programmes on a triennial basis relates to
    the difficulties of implementing bureaucratic parameters in a remote area:

    Many of the people in the field complained
    of the remoteness of bureaucracies, and their incessant demands for
    written reports on performance outcomes and so forth. It would be better
    if the bureaucracies appointed trusted representatives who could monitor
    and evaluate projects and programmes for themselves, rather than insisting
    that dedicated professionals in the field continue to spend valuable
    time and resources preparing reports in order to ensure continued funding. [79]

    The implementation of funding on a triennial
    basis would also have greater potential to make significant inroads into
    the problems surrounding petrol sniffing, an opportunity that is not available
    within the pilot project funding paradigm.

    The over-reliance of governments on pilot
    project funding was singled out for particular criticism in the Coronial
    Inquest. Anne Mosey, a community development consultant, observed that:

    [C]ommunities were very tired of pilot
    project funding. I think it is still pretty evident that there is still
    a tendency for governments to rely on pilot project funding. Again,
    because it is very difficult for them to access recurrent funding for
    new positions, so the tendency is on government departments to be able
    to put it in a pilot project because they are able to provide that kind
    of funding a lot more readily, but they are not able to access recurrent
    funding in terms of being able to provide ongoing support for that project,
    so it falls over. It then takes x number of years to get the funding
    up again, and, often state bureaucrats are as frustrated by that as
    community organisations are. They would like to be able to provide recurrent
    funding, they have a great deal of difficulty with the fact that they
    are so constrained by budgetary processes and by their ... annual accountability

    Unreasonable expectations often accompany short-term funding
    allocations such as pilot projects in Indigenous Affairs, particularly
    in relation to a complex issue such as petrol sniffing. Torzillo comments:

    [T]here is a widespread view that if
    funds are expended the problem should be solved. That is, we gave you
    people some money but petrol sniffing still exists, therefore you didn't
    fulfil the requirements of the program. I mean, I'm not aware of any
    reasonable government anywhere in the world who has that sort of expectation
    in social policy elsewhere. No-one expects that funds expended on heroin
    addiction in Australia will cease heroin addiction ... in fact, a consequence
    of that is that when that doesn't happen there tends to be a response
    from government that somehow the population has failed to deliver and
    that sets up a hostile relationship between service agencies out here
    and government, which is not a productive one if we are going to tackle
    this problem.[81]

    In short, there is a need to give concerted
    and focused attention to the issue of coordinating long-term funding arrangements
    effectively at state and commonwealth government levels to engender the
    necessary 'prompt, forthright, properly planned, properly funded action'
    identified by the Coroner.

    It is understandable if government departments
    do not wish to commit to time-frames without appropriate consultation,
    negotiation and the agreement of Anangu at this stage. However, there
    remains a pressing need for a long-term commitment from governments to
    address petrol sniffing on the AP Lands. Such a commitment needs to extend
    beyond the government's four-year budget cycle, and include a time-frame
    for progressing issues, including with projected outcomes that enable
    equitable participation by Anangu and ensure the progressive realisation
    of their rights. It is disturbing that there remains an absence of a clear
    commitment from all levels of government to do whatever it takes to address
    the endemic petrol sniffing issues on the AP Lands.

    Community participation agreements, an initiative
    introduced in the 2001 federal budget and administered by ATSIC, offer
    much potential from a capacity-building perspective for achieving this.
    They may ultimately provide the appropriate framework for locking down
    government commitments alongside directions established by Anangu communities.
    As I observed in the Social Justice Report 2001 about community
    participation agreements:

    Equitable participation by all partners
    should be further reinforced by ensuring that the model is applied to
    meet assessable goals and objectives over a prescribed time-frame ....
    There would need to be clarity about what form of commitment various
    partners are prepared to make, particularly in regard to the implementation
    of the model over a period of time and the level of resources required,
    and careful monitoring of all partners' participation as well as the
    flexibility to make any necessary re-adjustments to the model.[82]

    A long-term framework would provide the
    structure to ensure that the response to Indigenous petrol sniffing is
    targeted and that adequate resources channelled within APLIICC Tier One
    / COAG process. Greater evaluation of the resourcing of the responses
    by government is also necessary, and links should be developed with existing
    knowledge bases and expertise on petrol sniffing to inform this. The COAG
    Trial should also be viewed as an opportunity for piloting more flexible,
    longer-term approaches to funding commitments, as recommended by both
    RCIADIC and the CGC Report, and as a lever for increasing the level of
    state accountability on service delivery to the AP Lands.

    c) Health-related issues

    Part of the South Australian government's
    commitment to funding initiatives for the AP Lands over the next four
    years included an allocation of $7 million to the Department of Health
    Services (DHS) for health and wellbeing initiatives that will directly
    impact on petrol sniffing and $1.163 million to provide regional office
    and respite initiatives. $100,000 has been allocated to Nganampa Health
    Council for supplementary funding for the patient transport scheme. Discussions
    are currently taking place with key Anangu stakeholders and APY Land Council
    representatives regarding preliminary proposals by the DHS for improving
    primary health and safety. At the Shared Responsibility workshop in Alice
    Springs, Anangu confirmed petrol sniffing programs, nutrition, child health
    and safety as priority areas.

    Representatives from government health departments
    emphasised the degree of difficulty in responding to the health issues
    surrounding petrol sniffing, given that the problem is multi-faceted and
    has become entrenched over several decades. Quick-fix solutions are clearly
    not possible, and interventions need to be progressed at several levels.
    Importantly, the Coroner recommended the following to address this concern:

    Recommendation 7: Many of the strategies
    for combating petrol sniffing which have been tried in the past should
    not be discarded simply because they failed to achieve permanent improvements.
    Some of them might be regarded as having been successful for as long
    as they were extant. For any strategy to be successful will require
    broad Anangu support. Most strategies fail unless they are supported
    by others as part of a multi-faceted approach. Strategies should be
    aimed at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, as I have outlined
    in these findings.[83]

    The three necessary levels of intervention
    have the following goals:

    • Primary interventions - to reduce recruitment
      into substance abuse (targeted at occasional and non-sniffers);
    • Secondary interventions - to seek to achieve abstinence
      and rehabilitation (aimed at those who have been sniffing for some time
      and may be responsive to intervention); and
    • Tertiary interventions - to provide services
      to the permanently disabled (chronic sniffers and those who may have
      sustained brain damage).[84]

    Forms of intervention that could be implemented at the various
    levels include:

    • Primary interventions - programs to reduce recruitment
      to sniffing, such as the provision of sports and recreation activities,
      and the employment of youthworkers;
    • Secondary interventions - programs aimed at harm
      minimisation or cessation including policing, neuropsychological assessment,
      outstations/homelands, the Avgas scheme, legal sanctions, night patrols,
      programmes for children at risk, and crime prevention; and
    • Tertiary interventions - disability services including
      hospital care, chelation therapy and custodial care.

    Paul Torzillo has grouped petrol sniffers on the AP Lands
    into the following three categories:

    1. 25-40 year olds who are long-term chronic sniffers, often
      with sustained and irreversible damage, sociopathic tendencies and disability
      issues: disability services are the response to this issue;
    2. an unknown number of young people established on sniffing
      who might be rehabilitated and need a mixture of interventions; and
    3. new recruits who need sustained, long-term, flexible
      adaptable activities on an ongoing basis.[85]

    The view of the Nganampa Health Council
    is that strong support is needed for both youth activities and disability
    services. This section will examine the responses led by health agencies
    to these areas of intervention against relevant recommendations by the

    • Primary interventions

    At the time of the Coroner's report, matters
    on the agenda of the APLIICC Tier One Committee relating to petrol sniffing
    on the AP Lands included the immediate placement of four youth-workers,
    development of alternatives to incarceration for young offenders, and
    residential disability services, all of which were highlighted for attention
    in the Coronial recommendations

    Recommendation 8.1 of the Coronial Inquest
    was that the proposal before the APLIICC Tier One Committee to appoint
    four youthworkers and a coordinator be implemented immediately. At the
    time of the Inquest, there was $300,000 ($246,000 was recurrent) set aside
    by the Aboriginal Service Division within the South Australia Department
    of Human Services to fund these positions on the AP Lands, initially for
    a period of twelve months. There have been complaints about the length
    of time taken to implement this proposal of two-years standing from the
    previous government, although an Anangu youthwork coordinator was appointed
    in late 2003.

    Some service providers see prevention of
    the recruitment of new sniffers as the most crucial level of intervention
    in avoiding escalation of the problem. They also argue that there is more
    chance to make an intervention at an earlier age. Recruitment into petrol
    sniffing is perceived to stem from the boredom and futility experienced
    by young people in response to the degree of poverty and marginalisation
    on the AP Lands.

    The youthworker proposal has been seen as
    the most substantial form of intervention at the level of primary intervention,
    including as a basis from which to access other youth programs and funds
    for Anangu and for the provision of after-school and holiday programs
    and activities. However, there have been comments made about the lack
    of adequate planning and consultation that preceded the proposal, as there
    are issues about its implementation that required more careful thought.
    For example, no real operational money has been provided to establish
    a youth council or youth groups, or to set up an office. There have been
    suggestions that some of the youthworkers be paid on a part-time or casual
    basis via the CDEP scheme in order to free up some of the funding for
    these purposes.

    The basis of employment is another issue
    in itself: part-time employment may suit Anangu youthworkers better (particularly
    women), because of difficulties in factoring their other family and community
    commitments within a standard 'nine to five' hour day. Other relevant
    considerations include difficulties working with people from other moiety
    systems, in travelling into other areas and sometimes also a lack of support
    for women working beside their husbands. It has been suggested that funding
    needs to be as local as possible, with a number of workers employed across
    families on a part-time basis.

    There is also a role for longer-term interventions,
    such as case management. Potentially schools could play a role in terms
    of working with youthworkers to provide preventative education programs
    and resources for afterschool activities. If school counsellors were appointed,
    there would be scope for them to liaise with youth-workers in managing
    youth at risk where appropriate. Previously, community elders have provided
    preventative activities, such as taking young people to herd camels or
    to outstations, but it is hardly a role for which they can assume total
    responsibility, given their range of other community commitment, including
    dealing with chronic and disabled sniffers. The reliance on the CDEP Scheme
    to support interventions such as youthworkers and night patrols is also
    questionable, especially on a long-term basis, and proper funding for
    part-time and casual positions and development of potential career pathways
    should be considered.

    • Secondary interventions

    In accordance with recommendation 8.2 of
    the Coronial Inquest regarding neurological assessment, an assessment
    team with a multidisciplinary approach visited the lands and assessed
    a group of people in terms of the extent of brain damage. In certain individuals,
    there is no hope of reversing the effects of brain damage; the question
    now is how to treat them. Options are being considered in terms of how
    their counterparts in Adelaide would be treated and whether these options
    would be appropriate in the AP Lands.

    In relation to recommendation 8.3 of the
    Coronial Inquest regarding the establishment of outstations/homelands,
    the success of outstation programs such as Mt Theo near Yuendumu in providing
    a 'venue for community respite, recreation, skills training education
    and the like in the context of abstinence from petrol sniffing' was noted
    by the Coroner.[86] During the 1980s, homelands
    were utilised with some success by community elders on the AP Lands in
    running diversionary activities for petrol sniffers.

    While they provide a significant avenue
    through which community members can intervene in petrol sniffing and do
    so in culturally-appropriate ways, they tend to be short-term measures
    (a reflection of available funding), often personality-driven and difficult
    to sustain as a long-term intervention. They are not suitable for dealing
    with petrol sniffers with a high level of security or rehabilitation needs.
    Outstations and homelands nevertheless provide a valuable option as a
    harm minimisation strategy and have a place within a multi-faceted approach
    to petrol sniffing on the AP Lands.

    Recommendation 8.4 of the Coronial Inquest
    calls for the continuation of Avgas (aviation fuel) under the Comgas scheme
    as a successful harm minimisation strategy. Avgas is supplied to about
    thirty Aboriginal communities under the Comgas Scheme administered under
    the Commonwealth's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Substance Use
    Program in the Department of Health and Ageing. The Scheme ensures that
    communities using aviation fuel do so at no additional cost. Avgas is
    not permitted otherwise for use in motor vehicles as it does not meet
    several of the fuel specifications under the Fuel Quality Standards
    Act 2000.

    Data collected by Nganampa Health Council in the mid-1990s

    an unequivocal and marked reduction in
    petrol sniffing as a consequence of the introduction of Avgas to all
    communities. Not only was there a significant decline in the number
    of petrol sniffers for the following three years but there seemed to
    be a marked decline in fitting among petrol sniffers, probably as a
    consequence of less frequent sniffing being possible because of limited
    access to petrol.[87]

    The Avgas scheme is currently being evaluated.
    It is anticipated that a successful application will be made for a continued
    exemption under the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 before the
    end of the 2003.

    In relation to recommendation 8.8 of the
    Coronial Inquest regarding the evaluation of the role of the Department
    of Family and Youth Services (FAYS) in relation to children at risk, a
    common statement from FAYS, teachers, and health service providers was
    that just about every child on the AP Lands could be classified as 'at

    More specifically, the lack of employment
    and education opportunities, and also of sport and recreation facilities
    and other forms of entertainment and activity, are contributory factors
    here. Although there is some opportunity to attend a boarding school near
    Adelaide, there is little incentive to pursue an education or a career
    on the AP Lands, and a perception that you can always get CDEP later [i.e.
    The 'lifetime destination']. Afterschool employment of the kind available
    to youth in mainstream communities (such as packing supermarket shelves)
    is scarce, and there are limited career paths within service delivery
    to the communities (for example, healthworker) and many of these positions
    are filled by non-Indigenous people. A further aspect of this problem
    is disability employment, the need to provide meaningful employment for
    youth (and adults) with acquired brain damage from petrol sniffing.

    In 26 March 2003 FAYS released Our Best
    Investment: A State Plan to Protect and Advance the Interests of Children,
    the Report of the Review of Child Protection in South Australia, which
    has a chapter on children and youth on the AP Lands. The Review endorses
    the recommendations of the Coronial Inquest and urges that they be implemented

    Child intervention and protection is important
    in regard to volatile substance abuse in terms of protecting children
    at risk of self-harm or harm by others (such as violent or abusive behaviour
    by sniffers or others). The current system for responding to children
    at risk on the AP Lands requires the notifier to contact the Child Abuse
    Report Line in Adelaide; it was asserted to the Review that in some cases,
    there were as many as twenty-five notifications but no outcomes.[89] Visits by FAYS workers to remote areas are infrequent, the caseload for
    FAYS workers is high, and FAYS is seen as reluctant to use its statutory
    authority in regard to child protection. There is a perceived need for
    Anangu ownership and participation in the issue of child protection to
    give FAYS' work credibility.[90]

    The Coronial Inquest recommended that FAYS'
    role be expanded into one of proactive community development (and noted
    in this context service delivery issues such as the need for early childhood
    centres, after-school activities and holiday programs). Similar comments
    that have been made in relation to other government agencies were also
    made of FAYS, such as the lack of corporate knowledge, continuity of staff
    and skilled workers addressing the issues on the AP Lands, their need
    for a holistic, regional plan with planned outcomes, and the need to move
    beyond pilot programs and inflexible service arrangements.

    An issue specific to FAYS on the AP Lands
    is that of child protection and intervention. It is said that FAYS is
    often reluctant to act in cases of children at risk because of the history
    of enforced removal, leaving children in situations of abuse and neglect.
    It is also suggested that the desire to respond to the legislative requirement
    that Indigenous children be placed within their own culture takes precedence
    over the wellbeing of the child, as well as concerns about being seen
    to satisfy the recommendations from Bringing them home. The situation
    needs to be circumvented through consultation and participation with Anangu
    in working out solutions for children at risk that may not involve removal
    from families.[91]

    The Review states that FAYS has recognised
    that levels of community education and community development with the
    Aboriginal community has diminished over recent years, and that they could
    take on key roles with Aboriginal families and communities in this regard,
    particularly in developing programs that incorporate education and awareness
    about child protection.[92]

    • Tertiary interventions

    In relation to recommendation 8.10 of the
    Coronial Inquest regarding the need to urgently upgrade services for disabled
    victims of petrol sniffing, an appropriate response to the need for disability
    services and facilities for petrol sniffers who have incurred a serious
    degree of disability is currently under review. While the Coroner's report
    recommends the establishment of secure care facilities with a potentially
    multifunctional role that might include rehabilitation, the issue being
    canvassed at present concerns the most appropriate model for treatment
    and rehabilitation.

    d'Abbs and Brady make the following comments
    about the need to clarify whether elements of the mainstream paradigm,
    such as the construction of rehabilitation facilities, are correct for
    Indigenous petrol sniffers:

    Calls from various community groups and
    others for money to be allocated to residential rehabilitation facilities
    for petrol sniffers owe more to a widespread faith in the efficacy of
    this form of intervention than to any evidence supporting such faith.[93]

    There are a series of questions concerning
    the location of the facility on the AP Lands, its potential long-term
    use, its relevance to other groups of people at risk, and the necessary
    level of security and its potential enforceability. The South Australian
    Police and the Department for Correctional Services argue that rehabilitation
    of disabled sniffers is not appropriate as a function of a secure care
    facility as intensive personal care is needed, and that it is more appropriately
    the province of health agencies and disability service providers.

    Another suggestion has been the development
    of disability services across the AP Lands, probably to be located at
    six centres. The Review of delivery of services to people with disabilities
    on Anangu Pitjantjatjara lands
    found support for the provision of
    disability care in communities across the AP Lands:

    • The Anangu preferred position is to have Anangu disability
      care workers based in their own communities supported and trained by
      a regionally based community controlled professional team.
    • Given the situation in all the communities across the
      Lands, and while some communities may be able to deliver services in
      the short term, none are able to maintain effective and ongoing services
      to the aged and disabled. They do not have the infrastructure and resources
      nor capable, qualified and dedicated staff to deliver such services.
    • While people may prefer to have everything delivered
      close to home, unless services are delivered by one of the regional
      agencies it is an impossible task. NPY Women's Council, Nganampa Health
      Council and AP Council through AP Services for housing and community
      infrastructure, are the current functional organisations.[94]

    Planning for the proposed petrol sniffing
    rehabilitation facility is being led by DHS. As part of this planning
    process, the CBRG has reached agreement on the terms of reference for
    a feasibility study on different models for treatment. Letters of request
    have been sent to health agencies (Commonwealth and state / territory
    jurisdictions), and it is expected that the study will start by the end
    of 2003 or in early 2004, and will be finalised by September 2004. Agreement
    on the terms of reference has taken longer than expected because of the
    number of stakeholders involved and the complexity of the issues. The
    terms of reference include a survey of the available data on volatile
    substance abuse, an analysis of the efficacy of available models of detoxification,
    rehabilitation and treatment, and examination of what approaches are most
    likely to be successful on the AP Lands.

    A further consideration is the need for
    consultation with communities at the local level to inform a regional
    response, and the likelihood that different models may suit different
    communities, requiring a more flexible approach to the issue. The feasibility
    study is also seen to be of value in collecting data that will assist
    in understanding the dimensions of the problem and in developing appropriate
    responses to the situation. The findings of this study are to be fed back
    to the CBRG, with the APY Executive to make the final decision over the
    allocation for disability services.

    d) Justice-related issues

    In 2003 the APLIICC formed two new sub-committees
    to review the Justice response to last year's Coroner's recommendations
    and to more recent criticisms from Magistrate Hiskey who convenes the
    court circuit on the AP Lands. The Department of Justice has allocated
    $1 million over four years for policing and justice initiatives on the
    AP Lands.

    The justice issues that the Coroner identified as requiring
    redress fall largely in the category of secondary interventions and relate

    • the range of sentencing options available to the courts
      sitting in the AP Lands (recommendation 8.5);
    • amendment to the Public Intoxication Act (receommendation
    • establishment of night patrols (recommendation 8.7);
    • planning for the establishment of secure care facilities
      on the AP Lands (recommendation 8.10);
    • implementation of the recommendations of the SAPOL review
      into the Community Constable Scheme, particularly the establishment
      of a permanent police presence (recommendation 8.12); and
    • further measures by SAPOL to ensure that staffing at
      Marla is at full strength (recommendation 8.13).

    Significant issues relate to the provision
    of deterrence to petrol sniffing and some of the disruptive and harmful
    behaviour that accompanies it, and the risks this behaviour presents to
    both the individuals involved and to the rest of the community. This situation
    could be alleviated through the provision of deterrence in the form of
    a strengthened police presence in the area and the capacity for courts
    to have a range of sentencing options and to direct court orders to higher-tariff

    Currently there are problems with providing
    appropriate supervisors to implement community service orders or to direct
    orders at rehabilitation facilities, as there is not an adequate level
    of personnel or facilities. Without significant penalties and disincentives,
    destructive behaviour continues, threatening community order and stability.
    However, it is imperative that any justice measures be factored into an
    overall, multi-faceted strategy: it is not the responsibility of the police
    to compensate for the lack service delivery and infrastructure otherwise
    available on the AP Lands. It has also been suggested that other service
    providers sometimes use the lack of a police presence on the Lands as
    an excuse for inadequate service provision.

    The Coronial Inquest frames the lack of
    security on the AP Lands specifically as a human rights concern. The Coroner
    highlights the observations of Ann Mosey in this regard:

    It seems to me that in the Lands there
    is actually a human rights issue here. Everywhere else in Australia
    communities are able to feel a certain level of security in the knowledge
    that they have access to reasonably rapid police services, and the fact
    that at a minimum it takes two hours for the police from Marla to get
    to most communities, that is not including the ones that are a lot further
    away, to me this is really an issue of basic human rights and not being
    able to be accessed by the community members in the Lands, and I believe
    they have a right to a range of government services in terms of say
    health, education and so on and somewhere along the line there seems
    to have been a decision made that they don't have the right to the protection
    of the community itself from people who may be at risk of either harming
    themselves or harming other people in the community ...[95]

    The United Nations High Commissioner for
    Human Rights and United Nations Development Programme has developed Draft
    Guidelines on Poverty Alleviation, which incorporate existing human rights
    standards on economic, social and cultural rights. These make particular
    recommendations concerning the right to personal security which are especially
    pertinent to the issue of access to police services and protection on
    the AP Lands. Guideline 11: Right to Personal Security states that:

    174. Poor people usually suffer from various forms of
    insecurity. As well as experiencing financial, economic and social insecurity,
    they are often homeless, marginalized, discriminated against and subject
    to physical violence by State and non-State
    actors. Accordingly, efforts to strengthen the right of poor people
    to personal security shall have a crucial place in poverty reduction
    strategies ...

    178. Police protection should be provided
    in poor areas particularly affected by violence, harassment, intimidation
    and discrimination. Poverty reduction strategies should identify the
    worst affected areas, such as slums, and provide them with a sufficient
    number of specially trained law enforcement personnel.[96]

    In relation to recommendation 8.5 of the
    Coronial Inquest regarding the availability on non-custodial options,
    Court circuits are held on the AP Lands every two months where approximately
    twenty to thirty good behaviour bonds are imposed. It is not possible
    to make treatment orders or other orders directed at rehabilitation because
    there are no facilities available. The maximum penalty for possessing
    petrol for the purpose of inhalation is a $100 fine; by contrast, within
    the Shire of Ngaanyatjarra (in Western Australia, under different state
    legislation) fines up to $5,000 can be imposed.

    Recommendation 8.5 stipulated that the 'SA
    Department for Correctional Services must provide supervisors so that
    bonds, undertakings and community service obligations can be enforced.'
    Since the Coronial Inquest, the Department for Correctional Services has
    increased the number of Community Correctional Officers servicing the
    AP Lands by changing the operational boundaries of the Officer at Cooper
    Pedy to complement the work already being carried out from Marla. There
    are also plans for a mobile Community Service team to visit the AP Lands
    three times a year, enabling greater opportunity for offenders to work
    off their hours.

    In August 2003 the main obstacle preventing
    this initiative was lack of funding; it was only partly affordable under
    internal reallocations. It is anticipated that these initiatives will
    result in an increase of up to five Community Correctional Officers assigned
    to duties on the AP Lands, culminating in a weekly presence from the beginning
    of 2004.

    The Department for Correctional Services
    also emphasised the need for a multi-agency approach, highlighting the
    need for community constables to play an increased role in collecting
    offenders for supervision. They stressed that they were not necessarily
    able to provide an appropriate level of supervision for offenders, particularly
    in the case of chronic petrol sniffers:

    People with severe petrol-sniffing behaviour
    require a form of supervision more akin to attendant care, familiar
    in the disability service system, than to the periodic supervision we
    offer, hence the need for multi-agency based solutions.[97]

    The potential for these arrangements to
    increase the range of options for sentencing, and to an appropriate level,
    will need serious evaluation. Magistrate Hiskey, one of the two magistrates
    on the court circuit for the AP Lands, recently expressed his frustration
    with current arrangements in sentencing remarks relating to a twenty-seven
    year old man charged with petrol sniffing.

    In his comments in Police v Yakiti,
    Magistrate Hiskey drew attention to the fact that while a bond with supervision
    was the appropriate penalty, DCS was unable to offer appropriate supervision
    and intervention services in such matters: 'The advice given to the court
    by the department is not acceptable. This defendant, Casper Yakiti, deserves
    the benefit of a supervised bond.'[98]

    He further observed that he was under obligation
    'when sentencing offenders to impose whatever penalty is most appropriate
    in law', and that the court expects and requires supervision to be provided
    in this case and others where required.[99] While neither the court or DCS could be held responsible for conditions
    on the AP Lands, they were not absolved from implementing the recommendations.

    In relation to recommendation 8.6 of the
    Coronial Inquest regarding amending the Public Intoxication Act, the Coroner
    recommended that the Public Intoxication Act 1984 be introduced
    onto the AP Lands, with petrol and hydrocarbons recognised as drugs and
    the police empowered to apprehend petrol sniffers, remove their petrol
    cans and take them into custody. Some see this amendment as crucial intervention
    in terms of deterrence and in offering families respite from sniffing.
    They advocate that it should be implemented immediately, particularly
    in light of the success of sanctions in the Shire of Ngaanyatjarra, where
    petrol sniffing is an offence under local by-laws (the Aboriginal Communities
    [100]). However, others query
    the value of such legal sanctions in the absence of safe or adequate places
    to hold sniffers, such as 'sobering up' places or a secure care facility.
    At present, people can only be detained at the police lock-up. This is
    not an appropriate option, especially following the findings and recommendations
    of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The availability
    of an appropriate facility for drying-out would be significant in terms
    of protecting the offender from harming themselves or other members of
    the community.

    In relation to recommendation 8.7 of the
    Inquest regarding the establishment of night patrols and a crime prevention
    strategy, the Inquest noted the success of night patrols in other communities.
    While night patrols have been mooted for some time on the AP Lands as
    a potential crime prevention strategy, they are yet to be implemented.
    At the time of the Inquest, there was also no overall crime prevention
    strategy for the AP Lands (the 'Office of Crime prevention' within the
    Attorney General's Department and 'Crime Prevention Section' within SAPOL
    are both responsible for addressing petrol sniffing) from which, for example,
    night patrols could be coordinated. Since the Inquest, the Marla Action
    Plan has been revisited as the basis for a crime prevention strategy.
    Police officers have been assigned to work in partnership with individual
    communities and Community Council to develop Community Safety action plans.
    This is conceived as a long-term capacity-building exercise as well as
    a community safety one, which to aims to build on community structures,
    to enhance leadership and to engender a greater sense of responsibility
    among community measures.

    Support for the establishment of night patrols
    has been offered by the police as part of this process, but to date, only
    Mimili has shown an interest in this option. It should be noted that the
    resources of the CDEP Scheme as well as the police can be deployed to
    support such a program. The implementation of night patrols, however,
    is dependent on the existence of commitment and capacity in the communities
    to such a program.

    In relation to recommendation 8.10 regarding
    the establishment of secure care facilities on the AP Lands, the Tri-Jurisdictional
    Justice Group is considering the Coroner's recommendation. They have acknowledged
    that the Northern Territory government is building a new prison in Darwin.
    More appropriate to the AP Lands, however, are the existing medium to
    low term facilities at Alice Springs. While this option is closer than
    the Port Augusta prison, it still may not be close enough to obviate concerns
    expressed by Anangu about the distance of offenders from family and the
    potential for offenders to re-offend on their release or to become itinerants.
    Once again, those working in the justice area express concern about dealing
    with offenders with rehabilitative needs, and while the Tier 2 committee
    originally discussed the development of a bilateral bid for a co-located
    DCS/SAPOL facility to service the AP Lands, this has been shelved in respect
    to the DHS-led discussions of a feasibility study of rehabilitation services.

    The ALRM has commented on the situation
    as follows:

    It is of concern for instance that the
    latest 2003-4 budget bids have not included provision for a small correctional
    facility on or near the APY Lands, of the kind that was recommended
    by the Coroner. ALRM understands that budget bids for such a facility
    have not been made or have not been successful for the last several
    years, because of lack of necessary provision in recurrent funding.
    If the State of South Australia does not have the necessary resources,
    outstanding needs should be identified and met by the Commonwealth,
    perhaps through specific purpose payments in the areas of health, housing
    infrastructure and education.[101]

    In regard to the Coroner's recommendations
    on the implementation of the recommendations of the SAPOL review into
    the Community Constable Scheme, particularly the establishment of a permanent
    police presence on the AP Lands (recommendation 8.12) and further measures
    by SAPOL to ensure that staffing at Marla is at full strength (recommendation
    8.13), there is no permanent police presence on the AP Lands. Historically,
    the AP Lands have been policed from Oodnadatta and are now policed from
    Marla. It is difficult to police the Lands effectively from this town,
    which is situated just outside the border as 'in good conditions it can
    take six to seven hours to travel from Marla to Pipalyatyara or Watarru
    communities, and in adverse conditions it may not be possible to get through
    at all.'[102]

    The community constable scheme was introduced
    in the late 1980s and early 1990s to employ local Anangu as police aides,
    and in doing so, increase the police presence. There are now Community
    Constables in each of the major communities who are supervised by the
    police at Marla (twelve positions) - but 'no sworn police officers stationed
    to support, train and supervise them.'[103] The Coroner recommended that non-Anangu police officers be reintroduced
    into the AP Lands, as there are cultural problems with Community Constables:
    'if a Community Constable had [a] difficulty with a family member in his
    community, then a Community Constable from another community might be
    called upon, or mainstream police may come in and try to handle the situation.'[104] The Coroner stated that:

    It seems to me that to rely on Aboriginal
    police officers in communities is a great failure of the South Australian
    government to provide those sort of services to people on the Lands
    and I think that at the very least there needs to be a well equipped
    police station with say protective custody facilities in it which would
    be possibly placed either at Umuwa or one of the other major communities
    and it may be that there needs to be two or three police stations set
    up and they need to be provided with adequate staffing levels so that
    the police themselves feel that they are able to carry out their duties
    and that they feel safe and that their families feel safe in the environment
    that they are in.[105]

    In addition, the Coroner noted the positive
    effects of the short but targeted Operation Pitulu Wantima, run
    during January to February 2002, where sniffers were to be identified,
    and where possible, the contents of their cans emptied and crushed. The
    operation involved the presence of four police officers, together with
    all the community constables, every day. The report found that the community
    response to the operation was largely positive and that sniffers became
    more cooperative over time.

    Communities appreciated the increased
    police presence and communicated that their needs were better addressed.
    This manifested in an increase in inquiries made to police and resulted
    in some officers completing very lengthy shifts ...

    This information suggests that there is
    considerable under-reporting of crime on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands
    when police are not so available. The additional police officers deployed
    resulted in improved reporting of crimes which were resolved usually
    straight away. Response times improved and Community Constables performed
    at a higher level with the support they received from the additional
    patrols. Break-ins continued to occur, but the incidence of these crimes
    lessened, as did the incidence of violent crimes normally attributed
    to petrol induced rages.[106]

    Since the Inquest, the South Australian
    Police Department (SAPOL) has implemented Operation Safe Lands, which
    is aimed at increasing police presence, improving safety and reducing
    public disorder on the AP Lands. The operation, which initially ran from
    October 2002 to January 2003, has recommenced and will run until June
    2004 as an interim measure pending the implementation of a longer term
    strategy. Operation Safelands involved bringing five officers on to the
    AP Lands for discrete periods of time to make a concentrated effort in
    targeting problems such as violence, theft, cannabis use and petrol sniffing,
    and develop a greater intelligence base regarding crime prevention.

    A further initiative has been SAPOL's partnership
    with NPY Women's Council targeting family violence on the AP Lands. At
    the time of the Inquest, the Coroner noted that there was very little
    protection under existing arrangements, for example, for community members
    who might be the subjects of violence as a result of substance-abuse related
    behaviour, because of the prohibitive distances the police had to travel.
    As a result, police response times to violence and other issues had improved,
    and it has been agreed that the partnership should be adopted on a permanent

    In 1998 a review of the Community Constable
    Scheme recommended that two officers be stationed at Umuwa and a further
    two at another centre on the AP Lands. In late August 2003 the provision
    of two extra police officers per week was facilitated through the Marla
    Support Plan; under these arrangements, the extra police are rotated through
    Marla to patrol the Lands for week-long blocks. This is an interim arrangement
    and there is general agreement with the Review of the Community Constable
    Scheme that a minimum of four, maybe six, police officers need to be permanently
    stationed in the Lands, two operating out of Umuwa and at least two out
    of another community centre. Discussions are under way concerning the
    infrastructure and housing needs for stationing the officers. The possibility
    of establishing multi-jurisdictional facilities on the AP Lands has also
    been discussed by the Tri-State Jurisdictional Justice Group.

    While communities express some frustration
    with the 'stop/start' nature of police interventions over the past two
    years, there is also optimism that these initiatives will lay the basis
    for a long-term police presence and will increase the capacity of communities
    to provide a safe environment for their members.

    e) Summary of key issues and concerns in responding
    to the Coronial Inquest and petrol sniffing on the AP Lands

    In summary, the Coronial Inquest has identified
    the need for 'prompt, forthright, properly planned, properly funded action'
    and the importance of effective inter-governmental coordination to achieve
    this and sustain it into the longer term. In the year since the Coronial
    Inquest, there has been some movement in this direction but overall not

    There is no lack of inter-departmental and
    inter-governmental forums for tackling issues relating to petrol sniffing,
    with the existence over the past few years of the APLIICC (Tier One Committee
    and Task Forces), CBRG, Petrol Sniffing Task Force (now submerged within
    APLIICC Tier One Committee) and Tri-Jurisdictional Justice Group. The
    COAG whole of government community trial is also now super-imposed over
    these structures.

    There have been some positive initiatives
    emerging from these committees, such as the agreement to conduct a study
    of demographics on the AP Lands and to explore coordination and sharing
    of facilities and programs across the NT, SA and WA; the creation of an
    Office of the APY Lands within the South Australian Indigenous affairs
    department; the allocation of additional funding by the SA government
    to address related issues on the AP Lands; and the creation of an Allocation
    Committee to coordinate funding on the AP Lands. The decision to conduct
    the COAG trial on the AP Lands is also a positive acknowledgement of the
    urgent needs of the area and of the importance of governments changing
    the way they work with the Anangu.

    The establishment of these committees has
    also been met favourably by communities on the AP Lands in general. However,
    communities on the AP Lands have expressed concerns about the continuing
    piecemeal approach to petrol sniffing and a reluctance to act by governments
    in the twelve months following the Coronial Inquest. Governments cite
    the intractable nature of the issue and the need for appropriate consultation
    as reasons for the slow progress to date.

    There is significant concern that the discrete
    focus on petrol sniffing is potentially being obscured by the level of
    bureaucracy. There is concern that petrol sniffing will be submerged within
    a sea of other significant issues and not receive the focussed attention
    called for by the Coronial Inquest and communities on the AP Lands.

    Concerns that have emerged in the initial
    twelve months since the Coronial Inquest include that the COAG trial might,
    in the name of being more 'streamlined', in fact be distancing key representative
    bodies on the AP Lands from service delivery and decision making as it
    relates to substance misuse. This is particularly due to concerns about
    the over-reliance on the APY Executive as the 'gateway' and peak body
    representing all Anangu interests. This seems to extend beyond its community
    acceptance and expertise. Significant concerns about its corporate governance
    and service delivery performance have also been raised as related concerns.

    There are also concerns that the emphasis
    of the COAG Trial and these processes on community ownership obscures
    the bigger picture of a lack of adequate and appropriate service delivery
    and funding. The expectations that appear to be placed on the APY Executive
    to take carriage and responsibility for issues, beyond coordinating consultations
    and participating in priority setting, is indicative of this. The Coronial
    Inquest makes clear the need for outside assistance and improved government
    performance. This may be being obscured by the emphasis on joint responsibility.

    There is also, however, optimism that the
    COAG trial may ultimately breakthrough and achieve improved inter-governmental
    and inter-agency coordination where it has not been achieved in the past,
    and that it may result in greater accountability for all levels of government.
    There is also hope that the involvement of the Commonwealth may also provide
    greater leverage and ultimately achieve more effective outcomes. It is,
    however, too early to say whether these potential benefits will be realised.

    A barrier to achieving such results remains
    the clear under-resourcing of service delivery on the AP Lands. The allocation
    of nearly $12 million by the SA government specifically to petrol sniffing
    related issues over the next 4 years is a welcome announcement. Concerns
    have been expressed that this quantum may not be enough. There is a need
    for ongoing assessment of the resourcing need, and for funding to be ongoing
    beyond the 4 year budget cycle. In particular, there is concern at the
    failure to date to fund projects beyond the pilot stage. The Coroner's
    suggestion of moving to block funding on a triennial basis is aimed to
    addressing this concern.

    It remains of great concern that alongside
    the establishment of the various committees and inter-governmental forums,
    there is no clear, long term commitment to do whatever it takes to overcome
    the petrol sniffing problem or movement towards establishing benchmarks
    and targets towards this end. It may be that the Commonwealth government's
    community participation agreement process (coordinated by ATSIC) may provide
    a way forward in this regard.

    At a practical level, there has been variable
    progress in implementing initiatives at the primary, secondary and tertiary
    intervention stages, relating to both health and justice issues. There
    have been practical problems in placing youth-workers and a youth work
    coordinator, with differing views as to the potential role of the CDEP
    scheme, where such workers are placed and whether more part time appointments
    would be more appropriate to the needs of communities. Significant issues
    relating to homelands / outstations, a changed approach to child protection
    issues and the provision of appropriate disability services and a secure
    care facility for offenders remain under consideration or subject to feasibility

    There have been positive developments relating
    to service delivery with an increased presence of correctional services
    officers, police and expansion of the community constable scheme as an
    interim measure. This has resulted in an improved response time from police.
    These issues require much greater attention, but there is greater optimism
    about the ability of police to have a more effective presence on the AP
    Lands, with consequent benefits for community safety.

    The police continue, however, to face pressures
    of being heavily relied upon in the absence of other necessary forms of
    service delivery. Overall, there also remains a significant challenge
    of balancing law and order responses with adequate provision of services,
    particularly those which are health related. The dilemma relating to the
    proposed application of the Public Intoxification Act, in absence of detoxification
    and other support services, is an example of this ongoing, longer term

    Conclusion - a blueprint for action

    When Australia appeared before the United
    Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2000,
    the committee's country rapporteur made the following comments and asked
    the following question:

    I think we all have to welcome the increase
    in government resources going into what seem to be a multiplicity of
    programs and activities to address the social and economic disadvantage
    within the Aboriginal community ...

    Now I note that you said today that there's
    been great improvement over a short period of time, and I'm sure there
    has been, but you know it's interesting to me, and again I will say
    this because I come from a country myself where there is a disadvantaged
    community and a lot of government programs et cetera, it's of serious
    concern the extent of the dramatic inequalities that are still being
    experienced by these population groups when they represent only, you
    know, no more than 2% of the population of a highly developed, industrialised
    state, and ... it makes me wonder about things like the effectiveness
    of the programs, monitoring, benchmarking, what are the standards, is
    anybody watching this to see whether or not they really are designed
    to meet the disadvantages that are real in the communities, you know
    the real history of systemic discrimination, institutional racism?[107]

    The same questions could be posed in relation
    to the issue of petrol sniffing on the AP Lands and the underlying socio-economic
    circumstances. Namely, given the smallness of the Anangu population, and
    the proportion of petrol sniffers within it, why has there been so little
    progress in addressing these problems, despite the plethora of governmental
    service delivery agencies and committees already in existence? Magistrate
    Hiskey recently put this issue more directly: 'People cannot be allowed
    to die when intervention and assistance may save them. The communities
    upon the Pitjantjatjara lands need assistance.'[108]

    Given the history of neglect of petrol sniffing
    and its attendant problems on the AP Lands, the Coronial Inquest has provided
    an opportunity to focus on these issues. They should not be allowed, like
    the recommendations of so many other reports, to drift away unheeded.
    Instead, Coroner Chivell's recommendations should be capitalised on as
    the basis for a blueprint for a long-term sustained, comprehensive strategic
    plan for tackling these issues - even if some aspects of his recommendations
    are ultimately superseded by better alternatives decided at the local

    The issue of addressing Indigenous petrol
    sniffing on the AP Lands should be recognised in terms of the specific
    challenge it presents to governments and bureaucracy in terms of changing
    the way in which they do business with communities and in developing effective
    whole-of-government approaches. The designation of the AP Lands as a COAG
    Trial adds particular impetus to this challenge for governments to show
    that they are genuine about reforming their relationship to communities.

    The uncomfortable question which Indigenous
    petrol sniffing on the AP Lands raises is whether the structures of bureaucracy
    and the ways governments do business need to be radically altered: if
    not, will serious human rights issues such as petrol sniffing confronting
    Indigenous people keep on falling through the cracks? d'Abbs and Brady
    comment as follows on the respective level of responsibilities on both
    sides of the government and community partnership: '[W]hile communities
    must be partners in any program to address petrol sniffing, the notion
    that government agencies can sit back and insist that communities take
    "ownership" of the problem, and that all governments need to do is provide
    intermittent project grants to community groups, needs to be exposed and

    HREOC has advocated a progressive realisation
    approach in which incremental steps are taken to address aspects of Indigenous
    disadvantage with a specified time-frame. Most of the responses to the
    Coroner's recommendations in the past year have been both thoughtfully
    considered and incremental. The series of interventions that the Coroner
    has advocated target all levels of the problem, from potential through
    to chronic sniffers, and from precipitating causes through to situational
    and underlying factors. However, in order to keep the momentum of the
    response to Coronial recommendations going, there needs to be long-term,
    bipartisan agreements put in place in regard to Indigenous petrol sniffing
    that will withstand changes in governments and bureaucracies, their agendas
    and personnel. Attention also needs to be given to developing the capacity
    of people across all sectors - government, NGO and communities - to address
    petrol sniffing-related problems on the AP Lands. Capacity-building of
    this nature must necessarily be allied to the development of evidence
    bases relevant to petrol and other inhalants, including strategic approaches
    and best practice examples, so that a corporate knowledge base can be
    maintained. Frameworks for progressing a long-term strategic plan for
    eradicating petrol sniffing must also be negotiated in consultation with
    the Anangu.

    Given the limits on information which exists
    in relation to petrol sniffing and other substance misuse problems in
    Indigenous communities, the AP Lands situation also presents a significant
    opportunity to road-test strategies and solutions that may be applicable
    to other regions of Australia. Of particular interest are the models and
    the implications for Indigenous Australia that might emerge from the meeting
    of petrol sniffing as a public policy issue and the COAG trial as an interagency,
    inter-community challenge. Whether such initiatives as the COAG whole-of
    government trials ultimately prove to be more of a hindrance, obscuring
    and obstructing an effective response to issues such as Indigenous petrol
    sniffing, or whether its role might be pivotal in reforming service delivery
    at the Commonwealth and state level is a question that remains to be answered.

    1. It is a custom of the
    Anangu people to avoid using the first name of the deceased during the
    period of mourning. Instead, the Pitjantjjatjara word 'Kunmanara' is used.

    2. Chivell, W, Findings of
    the South Australian State Coronial Inquest into the Deaths of Kunmanara
    Ken, Kunmanara Hunt and Kunmanara Thompson
    , 6 September 2002,


    3. ibid, p2. .

    4. ibid, p2. .

    5. Western Australian Task Force
    on Drug Abuse 1995, quoted in Parliament of Victoria, Drugs and Crime
    Prevention Committee, Inquiry into the inhalation of volatile substances:
    Final report
    , DCPC, Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne 2002, fn 156,
    p139. .

    6. Chivell, W, op.cit, p4.

    7. Legislative Assembly of the
    Northern Territory, Select Committee on Substance Abuse in the Community, Interim report of the committee to date - issues of alcohol abuse,
    cannabis use and inhalant abuse
    , Parliament of the Northern Territory,
    Darwin 2003, p13.

    8. Chivell, W, op.cit, p14.
    In an internet forum on petrol sniffing Andrea Mason argued that 'many
    AP communities experiencing problems with petrol sniffers experience a
    kind of cultural suffocation. Petrol sniffers are slowly but surely suffocating
    and snuffing out the cultural vitality and cultural norms and traditional
    authority structures in their communities. They incite violence and inflict
    pain for purely selfish gain'. The Australian, Online Forum, 25
    November 2001,

    , accessed 29 July 2003.

    9. Brady, M, Heavy Metal: the Social
    Meaning of Petrol Sniffing in Australia
    , AIATSIS, Canberra, 1989,

    10. South Australian Coroners Court,
    Pitjantjatjara Lands, Before Mr W Chivell - State Coroner, Inquest
    into the Deaths of Kunamanara Ken, Kunmanara Hunt and Kunmanara Thompson
    Transcript of Proceedings, No.11/2002,. Inyika XN (Mr Goetz), p309.

    11. Chivell, W, op.cit, p2.

    12. Senate Legal and Constitutional
    References Committee, Reconciliation: Off track, Parliament of
    Australia, Canberra, October 2003, pxiv, Recommendation 20.

    13. ibid, pp135-6.

    14. ALRM, 'Supplementary submission
    of Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement Inc, Adelaide,' Australian Senate
    Legal and Constitutional References Committee Inquiry on Progress Towards
    National Reconciliation, 24 June 2003, p14.

    15. House of Representatives Standing
    Committee on Family and Community Affairs, Road to recovery: Report
    on the inquiry into substance abuse in Australian communities
    , Parliament
    of Australia, Canberra 2003, pp 198-199.

    16. ibid, Recommendation 71,

    17. d'Abbs, P, and Brady, M, 'Other
    drugs, other people, other places: the policy response to Indigenous petrol
    sniffing in Australia', Conference paper, Inhalant Use and Disorder Conference,
    Australian Institute of Criminology, Townsville, 7-8 July 2003, p2.

    18. ibid, p6.

    19. ibid., p10.

    20. Torzillo, P, 'Petrol sniffing
    on the AP Lands: Report to the Coroner', Nganampa Health Council, 2002,

    21. Parliament of Victoria, op.cit.,

    22. ibid, pp137, 139.

    23. James, M, Petrol sniffing
    on Cape York Peninsula

    accessed 20 November 2003, p1.

    24. Queensland Government, Kainedbiipitli
    - A new dawn
    . Torres Strait Island crime prevention resource manual,
    online at:

    , accessed 20 November

    25. ABC Online News, 'Government
    agencies promise schemes to fight petrol sniffing', 30 September 2003,

    , accessed 20 November 2003.

    26. Ngaanyatjarraku community, Law
    and justice submission to the Attorney-General of Western Australia
    Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku, Kalgoorlie, April 2002, p1.

    27. Legislative Assembly of the Northern
    Territory, op.cit., pp12-13. There are also communities that have
    overcome significant petrol sniffing problems in recent years, such as
    Yuendumu: see further, Siegel, N, 'The interaction between petrol sniffers
    and bush court in Aboriginal communities', Conference paper, Inhalant
    Use and Disorder Conference, Australian Institute of Criminology, Townsville,
    7-8 July 2003.

    28. Parliament of Victoria, op.cit,

    29. Australian National Council on
    Drugs, Structural determinants of youth drug use, ANCD Canberra
    2001, cited in Parliament of Victoria, Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee,ibid,

    30. Brady, M, op.cit, p14.

    31. d'Abbs, P, and Brady, M, op.cit,

    32. ibid, p4.

    33. ibid, p5.

    34. ibid.

    35. Ibid, p9.

    36. ibid, p10.

    37. Agencies and Departments included
    the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (Cth); Department
    of Correctional Services (SA); Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation,
    SA; Department of Human Services (SA); South Australian Police (SAPOL);
    and the Sheriff's Office.

    38. Including the Aboriginal Legal
    Rights Movement; Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women's
    Council; Ngannyatjarra Council Aboriginal Corporation; and Nganampa Health

    39. Including at Fregon, Waturra,
    Wantinna Homestead and Warburton.

    40. In fact, one of the first
    events that I attended as Social Justice Commissioner was a conference
    convened in Alice Springs in 1999 to discuss the use of aviation gas as
    a substitute for petrol in order to address the problem of sniffing on
    the AP Lands. See further: NPY Women's Council, AVGas / COMGas conference,
    28-39 July 1999, Alice Springs.

    41. ALRM, op.cit, p17.

    42. Ibid, p15.

    43. Torzillo, P, op.cit, p9.

    44. See for example: Aboriginal and
    Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice
    Report 2002
    , HREOC Sydney 2002, Chapter 4.

    45. Maggie Cavanagh, former coordinator
    of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women's Council in
    evidence at the Coronial Inquest. Quoted in Chivell, W, op.cit, p32.

    46. ibid., p1.

    47. Torzillo, P, 'Petrol sniffing
    on the AP Lands: Report to the Coroner', Nganampa Health Council, 2002,

    48. Ibid.

    49. ibid, p2.

    50. Chivell, W, op.cit, p1.

    51. ibid, Recommendation 1,

    52. ibid.

    53. Note: This analysis of the adequacy
    of response to the Coronial recommendations includes processes or initiatives
    that may not have been developed or undertaken by governments directly
    in response to the Coronial recommendations.

    54. Chivell, W, op.cit, pp32-3.

    55. ibid, p64.

    56. Ibid.

    57. See, for example: Aboriginal
    and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice
    Report 2001
    , HREOC Sydney 2001, Chapter 3.

    58. Chivell, W, op.cit, p64.

    59. Ibid, pp32-3,.

    60. ibid, p23.

    61. Ruddock, P, (Minister for
    Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs), Patterson, K, (Minister
    for Health and Ageing), Roberts, T, (SA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
    and Reconciliation) and Lewis, G, 'Anangu Pitjantjatjara (AP) Lands Communities
    to Work Together with Federal-State Partnership', Joint media release,
    22 May 2003, p1.

    62. Chivell, op.cit,

    63. Roberts, T, 'Re: South Australian
    Government response to the findings of the State Coronial Inquest into
    the deaths of Kunmanara Ken, Kunmanara Hunt and Kunmanara Thompson', Correspondence
    to HREOC
    , 14 November 2003, p4.

    64. Indigenous Communities Coordination
    Taskforce, Towards better outcomes for Indigenous Australians,
    DIMIA Canberra 2003,

    MySourceSession=6c1193 61b7d1a3a6cffc8b581a0eba82
    , accessed 15 November

    65. Chivell, op.cit, p31.

    66. Ruddock, P, op.cit, p2.

    67. For example, the convening of
    the COAG 'Shared Responsibility' workshop in Alice Springs, rather than
    on the AP Lands, and the venue's proximity to the casino was cited by
    some as highly inappropriate.

    68. Tregenza, J, Review of delivery
    of services to people with disabilities on Anangu Pitjantjatjara lands
    - an Anangu perspective
    , SA Department of Human Services, Adelaide
    2002, pp35-6.

    69. Dodson, Dr M, cited in Roberts,
    T, 'Report reveals serious problems in Anangu Pitjantjatjara lands: Minister
    welcomes parliamentary inquiry', media release, 29 August 2002.

    70. d'Abbs, P, and Brady, M, op.cit, p7.

    71. ibid, p8.

    72. Chivell, W, op.cit,

    73. Ibid, pp23-4.

    74. ibid, p23.

    75. Commonwealth Grants Commission, Report on Indigenous funding, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra
    2001, p xvii.

    76. Roberts, T, 'State government
    action on petrol sniffing', Media release, 23 July 2003.

    77. Quoted in Chapman, P, 'The budget
    for petrol sniffing' (2003) 238 Adelaide Review 3, p4.

    78. ibid.

    79. Chivell, W, op.cit, p3.

    80. Ibid, pp30-1.

    81. Ibid, p31.

    82. Aboriginal and Torres Strait
    Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report 2001, HREOC, Sydney, 2001, p89.

    83. Chivell, W, op.cit, p66.

    84. ibid, p50.

    85. Torzillo, P, op.cit, p3.

    86. Chivell, W, op.cit, p65.

    87. Torzillo, P, op.cit, pp3-4.

    88. Layton QC, R, Our best investment:
    A state plan to protect and advance the interests of children
    , Government
    of South Australia: the Review of Child Protection in South Australia,
    23 March 2003,,
    para 8.35.

    89. Ibid, para 8.34.

    90. ibid.

    91. ibid.

    92. ibid.

    93. d'Abbs, P, and Brady, W, op.cit,

    94. Tregenza, J, op.cit, p37.

    95. Chivell, W, op.cit, p62.

    96. United Nations High Commissioner
    for Human Rights and United Nations Development Programme, Draft Guidelines:
    A Human Rights Approach
    to Poverty Reduction Strategies, UNHCHR
    Geneva 2002,,
    accessed 15 November 2002, paras 174, 178.

    97. Severin, P, Chief Executive,
    Department for Correctional Services, 'Re: Findings of the State Coronial
    Inquest into the Deaths of Kunmanarra Ken, Kunmanarra Hunt and Kunmanarra
    Thompson', Correspondence with HREOC, 20 August 2003, p2.

    98. Hiskey, G, Police v Yakiti,
    cited in '"These people can't be allowed to die": Magistrate speaks out
    on petrol sniffing', Koori Mail, 30 July 2003, p5.

    99. Ibid.

    100. Offenders can be fined up to
    $5,000 under the Act. Similarly, under the Young Offenders Act children
    can be ordered to do community service activity or required to go at a
    community substance abuse facility for up to one week. There is, however,
    criticism of changes to sentencing legislation from 1995 which meant that
    the option of sentencing offenders for up to three months in a rehabilitation
    centre was no longer available has seriously undermined the success of
    addressing petrol sniffing problems: See further, Shire of Ngaanyatjarra, op.cit.

    101. ALRM, op.cit, p17.

    102. Chivell, W, op.cit, p51.

    103. Ibid, p53.

    104. Ibid, p54.

    105. Ibid, p60.

    106. Ibid, p59.

    107. McDougall, G, CERD Transcript
    21-22 March 2000
    , 1393rd meeting, Part II, p4; quoted in Aboriginal
    and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice
    Report 2000
    , HREOC Sydney 2000, p58.

    108. Cited in '"These people
    can't be allowed to die": Magistrate Speaks out on petrol sniffing', op.cit.

    109. d'Abbs, P, and Brady,
    W, op.cit, p12.