Health

Indigenous superhero empowering the next generation of 'smoke-free ambassadors’

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A new book for pre-school children aims to increase awareness about the hazards of smoking within the Indigenous community.

"You smoke, you choke!" That's the message to the youngest members of our Indigenous community.

And the messenger is a fictional anti-smoking superhero by the name of 'Deadly Dan'.

Cloaked in possum fur - and using a boomerang, 'Deadly Dan' highlights the dangers of smoking, in a new book.

“I can smell cigarette smoke all over Wurundjeri country," 'Deadly Dan' shouts from the pages.

"And if my people call me, I can fly as fast as Bunjil.” 

For the three and four-year-olds at Yappera Children’s Services in Melbourne northern suburbs, the message seems to have had an impact.

“Smoking is bad,” little Maya told SBS World News.

Aliyah added" “It makes you sick.”

'Deadly Dan at the League' book reading
'Deadly Dan at the League' book being read to young Indigenous children.
SBS World News

'Two fruit, five veg'

A collaboration between the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and Quit Victoria, 'Deadly Dan at the League' also aims to spread the word about healthy living.

During a visit to Yappera, the children sing along to the super hero's song:

“Two fruit, five veg, they're the bomb. They keep our bodies, healthy and strong.”

“Let's tell our mob, let's tell them quick - cigarettes, they make you sick!”

The book is set in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, using local landmarks the children are familiar with.

Laura Thompson, the regional coordinator at 'Tackling Indigenous Smoking', said the aim was for the children to then initiate a conversation with their families.

“We found that they're our best smoke-free ambassadors, and that they're able to go back into their homes and have a Quit conversations with their parents actually, and advocate for smoke-free environments.”

Quit Victoria Director, Dr Sarah White, said young people were the strongest advocates of anti-smoking campaigns.

“A lot of people are surrounded by adults and their role models smoking, around them.”

“If you look at the community, about 60 per cent, or a bit over 60 per cent, are 30 and under. So if we reach the children, we're actually reaching a big proportion of Indigenous communities in Australia.”

Deadly Dan with Indigenous children
Deadly Dan with Indigenous children at Yappera Childrens Services.
SBS World News

Having an impact

The Aboriginal Health Service has seen an increase in the number of adults visiting its clinic, wanting to quit.

But there's still a way to go.

While the smoking rate is declining among the Indigenous community, it's still high, at 39 per cent.

That's compared to 12.2 per cent, for the overall Australian community.

The ultimate aim of the 'Deadly Dan' book is to ensure the smoke-free message has a lasting legacy in these youngest of ambassadors.

“When they go to any environment, it's a healthy, smoke-free environment, that they can enjoy,” Ms Thompson told SBS.

“And that our next generation of kids, choose not to smoke, and that their elders and parents, before them, are on their quitting journey.”

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