Learning through laughter: Clowns share a healthy message in Warlpiri

Meet Miss Molly Muppet, Papadave, Mouse and Ping Pong - clowning around on the desert roads to Warlpiri lands.

There was plenty of hula-hooping hoopla for Warlpiri communities when the fun-loving clowns of Clowns Without Borders returned to bring more laughter and lessons. This year elders invited them to spread a message about “mgurrju mamgarri” (good food) and strong bodies.

Last year, Clowns without Borders visited Warlpiri to share their message about the importance of hygiene and literacy. While Papadave and Miss Molly Muppet were part of the last visit, it was all new and exciting for Ping Pong and Mouse, bringing their “new skills, passion and experience” to the mix.

Marching into towns the clowns performed an acrobatic troupe act, with one weak link... Papadave! Always forgetting to wipe his nose, wash his face and eat the right food, Papadave would wilt and need his friends to help carry him to health.

Ping Pong was delighted to be welcomed by community. “After the show...we were regularly greeted around the towns afterwards,” he explains. “Some of the children would shout out the words we had used in the shows and laugh.”

Clowning is the celebration of mistakes. When a clown does something wrong, and is told off again and again but doesn’t learn, the audience laugh because they recognise the mistake. Presenting an issue like personal hygiene this way can help the children learn to take good care of themselves.

“We use the themes to bring a positive message in a fun and accessible way,” says Miss Molly Muppet. “Through laughter and play, the clown can bring many messages, but the most important is love and joy.”

It’s hard to know who had more fun – the clowns or community.

The Warlpiri Education and Training Trust uses play-based learning approaches to foster an eagerness for education in young children. World Vision works alongside community members and incorporates the traditional culture and language into the activities.

The program runs activities like healthy cooking with caregivers, father and child football and painting days to promote family involvement and development. It also supports Warlpiri playgroups, crèches and childcare, and provides nationally recognised early childhood training onsite to local Indigenous workers.

The clowns enthuse, “People should get behind this project because it is Australian-led, Australian-focused project that supports and encourages growth in the area of early childhood development and beyond”.

How you can help

The Warlpiri Education and Training Trust (WETT) Early Childhood Project is an innovative partnership between World Vision, the Central Land Council and WETT. You can get involved by becoming a support of our Australia Program