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About this web resource

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The need for better information and resources

Development of this web resource recognises the urgent need to improve approaches to the use of volatile substances, particularly petrol, among Indigenous peoples.

The inhalation of petrol, most commonly referred to as ‘petrol sniffing', is a major problem for children and young adults in a considerable number of Aboriginal communities, particularly in central Australia (including the southern areas of the Northern Territory, the north west regions of South Australia, and the Warburton Ranges area of Western Australia), Arnhem Land, and the eastern goldfields region of Western Australia. As well as the major impacts on the health of those involved in the practice, petrol sniffing is also responsible for substantial social disruptions and property damage.

Petrol inhalation can cause death directly, mainly through the cardiac arrhythmic effects of petrol's aromatic hydrocarbons or through respiratory depression. Death can also occur indirectly, through misadventure while intoxicated or from chronic effects on the central nervous system. As well as causing deaths, petrol sniffing is responsible for a significant burden of permanent disability from acquired brain injury.

A recent review of policy responses to petrol sniffing - which were described as ‘fragmentary', ‘episodic' and lacking commitment - noted that ‘there has been little accumulation of knowledge about the nature and causes of sniffing, or about the effectiveness of interventions' [1]. As well as calling for committed, coordinated action by governments in partnership with the non-government and community sectors, the review highlighted the need for better information and knowledge about: patterns of petrol sniffing and its correlates; the efficacy and effectiveness of interventions; and the impacts on physical and mental functioning.

This web resource is one component of the efforts required to improve the information and knowledge base necessary for the formulation of committed, long-term strategies and policies addressing the use of petrol and other volatile substances among Indigenous peoples.

Content of the Indigenous volatile substance use web resource

In aiming to provide access to good quality information and resources for people involved in addressing volatile substance use among Indigenous peoples, this web resource will include: reviews; guidelines; resources; programs, projects and lessons; policies and strategies; publications; and links. It will also include information about research activity, funding opportunities, organisations, agencies and individuals working in the field, news and events and training programs.

Sharing information about research and practice

The web resource also provides the capacity for people involved in the area to actively share their information and experiences. It does this through support of a yarning place (an electronic network) that encourages electronic yarning and networking among people working across Australia to address volatile substance use among Indigenous peoples.

Development of the Indigenous volatile substance use web resource

Development of this web resource and the associated yarning place has been made possible with funds provided to the HealthInfoNet by the Alcohol and Indigenous Programs Section of the Australian Department of Health and Ageing's Drug Strategy Branch.

View the Substance Use Reference Group

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