Children as young as six years of age have been seen sniffing petrol in the Katherine region.
To intervene in the trend a group of more than 60 stakeholders, service providers, government, health and youth group representatives gathered in Katherine last week to discuss a push for the roll-out of Opal fuel in the region before the next wet season.
Community leaders from all sectors agreed the roll-out of the low-aromatic fuel was “part of the answer” to get sniffers “off the streets”.
John Fletcher, Chief Executive Officer of Katherine’s Wurli-Wurlinjang Health Service said statistics from Alice Springs had shown that Opal “makes a difference”.
“We need to do it (roll out Opal fuel).
“We have to save our kids.”
Mr Fletcher said a broad non-sector specific approach was needed to tackle the petrol sniffing problem.
“We need to support our youth to grow into strong and healthy individuals.”
Central Australian Youth Link Up Services’ Blair MacFarlane said there had been a 94 per cent reduction of petrol sniffing in communities where Opal fuel had been rolled out.
“Petrol sniffing is an easy thing to copy from older kids.
“Reducing the problem is not just a matter of rolling out low-aromatic fuel - youth programs are a way to bring our youth off the streets, catch them and bring them in the right direction,” he said.
Youth WorX NT broker Meg Geritz supported the approach.
“People in Katherine are suffering - the core of the sniffing problem needed to be tackled,” she said.
“Our youth have severely been neglected in the past - programs are needed to support the young people in our region.”
The group of stakeholders will hold more volatile substance abuse meetings in Katherine in the near future in an aim to find a solution for the petrol sniffing problem.