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Petrol sniffing closes NT school

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 5 March 2004


The problem of petrol sniffing has forced one Aboriginal community in central Australia to cancel all secondary schooling and sack its two teachers.

The Papunya school no longer has any students in secondary classes because nearly all of them spend their days sniffing petrol.

Central Australian youth worker Blair McFarland says children as young as 10 are users and some have been sniffing for four years.

Mr McFarland says unless kids at Papunya get off petrol, the secondary schooling will remain cancelled.

"I think there are efforts to try and re-engage the kids in secondary schooling in post-primary schooling, and we'll see how they go over the year," he said.

"If enough kids sort of show an interest in the sort of outreach program that the school's running, they may be able to argue to get more resources."

Australia's petrol industry has joined efforts to stamp out petrol sniffing in Central Australian communities.

BP is funding a three-year program in Alice Springs to get young sniffers from remote communities off petrol and back to school.

BP's Corporate Citizenship adviser Mark Glazebrook says the company wants to do something practical to discourage the abuse of its product.

"We have difficulty with the notion that young people are being affected by a product that the whole industry produces," he said.

"It's not just an issue for BP. We don't particularly see that people misusing it is our responsibility but we feel an obligation to follow up and to make sure if there's something else we can do so that people are not harmed by it, that we follow that through."


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