NT community group reduces sniffing harms

Education workshops and camps succeed in lowering inhalant use among Darwin youth.

The AOD Indigenous Communities Project run by Amity Community Services has led to a marked decrease in inhalant misuse in the Darwin urban area in the past decade.

Amity has developed systems and processes designed to reduce supply of volatile substances, as well as train community service providers, both individually and collectively, to work with Indigenous communities. Amity Community Services Coordinator Michael Massingham said the program had been a resounding success in suppressing inhalant misuse in the area. He attributed the reduced episodes of inhalant use to a series of training workshops educating both the community and retailers, which were run throughout the year. He said the workshop activities included working with retailers to promote the responsible sale of volatile substances and the appropriate storage of products.

He said fluctuations in outbreaks throughout the year require a consistent and proactive approach. “Volatile inhalant misuse was the original problem but it is pleasing to note there has been a noticeable reduction in volatile substance misuse in the project area in recent times”, Mr Massingham said. “There are occasional ‘flare-ups’ that are dealt with on a case by case level and in partnership with government and non-government agencies.”

Amity works closely with government and community agencies such as Central Australian Youth Outreach Service in Alice Springs. While many supply-reduction measures specifically targeted inhalants, demand-reduction measures such as developing community-based recreation and youth programs offered other health and community safety benefits. “A large part of our work now also includes dealing with issues relating to use of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis”, he said.

Mr Massingham said harm reduction remained a major focus of the project which encompassed a wide array of activities and strategies. Examples of its programs include:

  • Engagement and diversion at the community level for youth
  • Education bush camps for families, men’s and women’s groups
  • Initiatives focused on supply reduction at the retailer level
  • Legislative reform at government level and information sharing among stakeholders Territory wide.

Mr Massingham said Amity staff also provide advocacy, liaison and referral services to community people which reduce co-morbidities and consequent harms. The organisation also works with community organisations to provide alcohol-free camp programs for men, women and young people that revolve around restoring cultural links and healthy living practices.