The superhero fighting the spread of coronavirus in remote NT communities
28 June 2021 at 4:45 pm
“We knew that if we didn’t do something then people might get really sick”
For the past few months, a new hero has been walking the streets of the remote Northern Territory community, Wadeye, spreading culturally appropriate health messages to protect community members.
Speaking in a mix of English and local Murrinh-patha language, Captain Sanitiser has been sharing tips on how to be safe during the pandemic, such as staying a safe distance from one another, and not sharing food or utensils via videos posted to social media.
The superhero is the creation of Dallas Mugarra, a local filmmaker and employee of Thamarrurr Youth Indigenous Corporation (TYIC), who back in the early days of the pandemic saw a need to fill the gap in virus-related information reaching the community.
“There are some people in the community that don’t take things like this seriously enough. But we knew that if we didn’t do something then people might get really sick,” Mugarra told Pro Bono News.
“We wanted to make the messages funny so that people enjoyed them, but also serious so that people could prepare themselves for serious situations.”
With the help of producer Jerry Bitting, the Aboriginal superhero has become an internet sensation, [with videos of Captain Sanitiser] attracting thousands of shares on TikTok and collecting a large following on Facebook.
Mugarra said it was important that these health messages came from people in the community.
“The government stuff that comes into the community isn’t that effective,” he said.
“We’re doing it another way and it seems to be working.”
While the worst of the pandemic seems to be under wraps in most parts of the country, it doesn’t mean it’s the end for Captain Sanitiser.
The captain, and a crew of offsiders, recently completed a 5,661 kilometre motorbike ride from Bright in Victoria to Barunga in the NT – spreading the message to empower and encourage young First Nations people to take control of their health, life and future along the way.
Bitting and Mugarra are also working with the TYIC on future videos (as well as new superheroes and sidekicks) to tackle big issues in the community such as youth suicide, gang violence, and staying healthy.
Over the past few years, Wadeye has faced bouts of serious gang violence and riots. Late last year, fighting in the community led to four people being medically evacuated, and riots overwhelmed police in 2014.
Mugarra added that they were aiming for these new videos to go beyond just Wadeye.
“We’ll be talking about all the other issues that are happening in our community, and the communities around it,” he said.
Check out Captain Sanitiser here.