Ninja Circus article in “The Australian”

Juggling ways to beat scourge of sniffing!


The Australian July 09, 2013 12:00AM

Boys from Mutitjulu perform juggling under the watchful eye of youth worker and Ninja Circus founder Ludovic Dumas. Picture: Kelly Barnes Source: The Australian
AN Aboriginal community plagued by petrol-sniffing just a few years ago, is starting to come back to life with the development of a local circus troupe boosting self-esteem and lifting the spirits of elders.

In less than a year since its creation, the Ninja Circus of the community of Mutitjulu, which sits in the shadow of Uluru, has seen teenagers perform in front of 85,000 AFL fans at the MCG and created a new sense of pride among residents.

The innovative program was to stop the acute drug, alcohol and petrol-sniffing problems reappearing in the small Aboriginal community of 150, which was once seen as one of the nation’s most troubled. Elder Reggie Uluru said the program had kept children occupied and prevented them taking to the cannabis and alcohol that still materialise.

Mr Uluru knows first-hand the importance of such programs.

His son Steven made national headlines in 2005 when he interrupted an inquest into petrol-sniffing deaths in the community by wandering in with a can pressed against his face. “We’re finished with petrol,” Mr Uluru said.

“We got the petrol out of here.

“But other things are coming in here, making trouble. (The circus) thing is good. And we go hunting — emu, kangaroo.”

He said the community had come a long way since 2006, when claims that young girls were prostituting themselves for petrol and some as young as five had sexually transmitted diseases, helped spark the Northern Territory intervention.

The program was the brainchild of French-born youth worker Ludovic Dumas, who trains up to 20 teens at a time in juggling and acrobatic skills.

Mr Dumas, employed by the respected Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council, said having seven Mutitjulu children performing at the MCG in the AFL’s Dreamtime Round in May had boosted community spirits. “The engagement and passion that the Mutitjulu kids have really surprised and amazed me,” he said.

“Everybody came back as a hero and everyone was very proud of them. Even for the kids that stayed behind, there were big shiny eyes, knowing that it will be their chance at any given time.”

Mr Dumas has taken to leaving props in his car because children constantly ask if they can practise their skills at home.

For Deon Cole, 11, the program has given him the goal of one day performing in New York — despite only boarding a plane for the first time in May. “The MCG was good,” he said, adding that a visit to the National Circus School was better. “There was a big trampoline there. But they (my friends) all wanted to know what it looked like at the MCG.”

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