Clowns bring laughter and lessons to Warlpiri kids

“You put your right hand in, you put your right hand out, and you wash it all about. You do the healthy washing, so you don’t get sick – and that’s what it’s all about!”

In December last year, Tim Webster led a humanitarian clown troupe on a tour of the remote Northern Territory-based Indigenous Warlpiri communities. The tour was in support of World Vision’s Warlpiri Education and Training Trust (WETT) Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) project. 

With the special “hand-washing” version of the Hokey Pokey, the clowns had the kids in fits of laughter.

Prior to the trip, Warlpiri community leaders had issued the clowns with a brief: help us get across our message that hygiene and literacy are important – and fun! 

The clowns wrote skits and songs encouraging kids to wash their faces and hands, as well as read books. One skit involved a “Washing Police Officer” who chased down the other clowns with buckets of water – it had the kids roaring with laughter. Another promoted reading as exciting, fun and sociable. 

The clowns competed to read a book only to end up in a comical twisted heap. In the end they realised reading together was the best way. 

The Warlpiri communities hold their culture and traditions strong. And with help from local elders, the troupe were able to incorporate key words and phrases such as “punku” meaning “yuck” and “lawa ngapa” meaning “no water” into performances. 

According to clown Alex Hilvert, incorporating traditional language was a way to show respect. To say, “I like your language ... I’d like to know it”. The success of the clown visit paves the way for more innovative and collaborative ways in which World Vision can support the WETT Warlpiri ECCD project in its objectives to see Indigenous kids grow up happy, healthy and strong.

How you can help

Become an Australia Program supporter today and contribute to World Vision’s work with Australian Indigenous communities. You can help to make a lasting difference in the lives of Indigenous children and their communities.