Petrol Sniffing Strategy


The Australian Government is implementing a whole-of-government Petrol Sniffing Strategy in response to the devastating effects of petrol sniffing in some Indigenous communities.  The Petrol Sniffing Strategy aims to reduce the incidence and impact of petrol sniffing and other forms of substance abuse amongst Indigenous youth and communities in specific areas.

The Petrol Sniffing Strategy is implemented through an Eight Point Plan:

  • roll-out of unleaded Opal fuel
  • consistent legislation dealing with petrol sniffing across jurisdictions
  • activities to strengthen and support communities
  • youth diversionary activities
  • rehabilitation and treatment facilities
  • appropriate levels of policing
  • communications and education strategies
  • evaluation.


The Australian Government has provided $86.3 million for implementation of the Petrol Sniffing Strategy since 2005. In 2008, the Combating Petrol Sniffing Budget Measure was made an ongoing program.

This funding has supported a wide range of activities, including:

  • the rollout of Opal fuel, as a highly effective supply reduction measure (an evaluation of the impact of Opal fuel completed in 2008-09 measured a 70 per cent reduction in petrol sniffing across the sample communities between baseline and follow up data collections.)
  • a crackdown on trafficking of petrol and other substances through improved intelligence gathering and policing activities
  • the strengthening of vulnerable communities through the provision of targeted youth diversion activities, treatment and rehabilitation support, family and community development services and local infrastructure projects.

This funding is in addition to other complementary programs that have also been implemented by the government to strengthen and build the capacity of remote Indigenous communities, particularly in the Northern Territory.

The 2010-11 Budget provided $38.5 million over four years to further strengthen the roll-out of non-sniffable Opal fuel. This funding is supported by findings that availability of Opal fuel significantly reduces the incidence of petrol sniffing in communities where it is available.

In addition to the further rollout of Opal fuel, the Australian Government will continue to identify opportunities to consolidate and expand development and implementation of programs that address the debilitating effects of petrol sniffing and other substance abuse amongst young Indigenous Australians living in communities of high need, particularly in remote locations.  These opportunities will be developed in the context of important reforms the government is currently putting in place to improve the way governments work with Indigenous people, through strengthening local service planning processes and fostering more effective working relations with State and Territory governments.

Collaborative approach

Responsibility for the Petrol Sniffing Strategy is shared across the following four Australian Government departments:

  • Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA)
  • Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA)
  • Attorney-General's Department (AGD)
  • Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)

These departments work closely together to ensure a collaborative, integrated and complementary approach to delivering key initiatives across the elements of the Eight Point Plan. FaHCSIA is the lead agency for overall coordination of the strategy and acts as Secretariat to the PSS SES Steering Committee.

Stakeholder support

The success of the Petrol Sniffing Strategy to date has been achieved through the active involvement, assistance and support of a wide range of stakeholders. These include State and Territory governments, local councils and shires, non-government providers as well as Indigenous communities themselves.

Designated zones

The Petrol Sniffing Strategy (PSS) is focused on reducing the incidence and impact of petrol sniffing in the designated PSS zones of:

  • the remote cross-border region in central Australia, covering the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in Western Australia (WA), the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia (SA) and the communities of Docker River, Imanpa, Mutitjulu and Apatula in the Northern Territory (NT)
  • the expanded Central Australian region, incorporating the Alice Springs township and communities to the west and north of Alice Springs in the NT
  • Doomadgee and Mornington Island in the Southern Gulf area of Queensland (QLD), and
  • WA East Kimberley region.

The PSS zones were developed in consultation with the States and the Northern Territory Governments.


Key achievements of the Petrol Sniffing Strategy to date include:

  • the roll-out of Opal fuel to 106 sites across regional and remote Australia
  • development of Guidelines for the Responsible Sale of Premium Unleaded petrol
  • a significant expansion in youth services and activities across the PSS zones
  • construction of 11 new houses and 3 temporary accommodation duplexes to support the employment of youth workers in high need PSS communities
  • construction of a new recreation hall in Finke and the refurbishment of two halls in Docker River and Imanpa NT to support the delivery of youth services and recreational activities
  • substantial reductions in the trafficking of petrol, illicit drugs and alcohol across the PSS Zones through the Alice Springs, Katherine and Marla Substance Abuse Intelligence Desks (SAIDs) and Dog Operation Units located in Alice Springs, Katherine and Darwin.
  • improved support to local communities in dealing with anti-social behaviours resulting from petrol sniffing, through the development of restorative justice conferencing models, and
  • establishment of diversionary education projects that provide off-school learning activities, mentoring and pathways back into school, training and/or employment for Indigenous youth affected by petrol sniffing and other substance abuse.

Reports and evaluations

For more detailed information on implementation of the Petrol Sniffing Strategy including reports and evaluations see Action to Reduce Petrol Sniffing in Indigenous Communities.



Last updated: