Queensland’s global reputation as a nursery of creative genius in the film production space has been enhanced by a newly developed 16-part health education animation series, commissioned by the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health’s Deadly Choices program.

Smokey Joe the Neighbour was written by Brisbane-based creative agency Redsuit and produced by animation specialists, Ruckus Studio. Featuring the voice-over talents of Deadly Choices Ambassadors, Australian rugby league legend Steve Renouf and national female touch player, Bo de la Cruz; along with local public health sector specialist Sethy Willie, the series is informative as much as it is entertaining.

Created as the major resource material for the all-new Deadly Choices Junior Tobacco Education Program, Smokey Joe the Neighbour is now being delivered through the Queensland Government-funded Healthy Lifestyle Program, with a view to eventually being rolled out nationally.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath officially launched the program earlier this year at Humpybong State School in Redcliffe.

“This is a trailblazing initiative that will provide invaluable guidance and education for future generations. Smoking is the main cause of preventable death in Australia, and disproportionate levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 15 are current daily smokers. I am proud to be supporting the continued efforts of the Deadly Choices program, as the program’s incredible work empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to make healthy choices for themselves, and their families.”

Minister D’Ath.

Smokey Joe the Neighbour tracks the quit journey of the titled character; exploring the effects Smokey Joe’s tobacco use has on his own health and that of his young neighbours, Presto and Sissy; while highlighting the various support tools and networks available to individuals through local Community Controlled Health Services.

While the narrative is simple, embedded within each episode are some very serious themes and concepts that show smoking, in all its forms, as a primary contributor to the development of chronic illness. 

Renouf, who has served as an Ambassador for Deadly Choices since inception is just as excited to see IUIH expand its tobacco education reach.   

“Current and future generations of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families will develop greater knowledge and understanding around the dangers of smoking thanks to this groundbreaking initiative.”

Steve Renouf

The Deadly Choices strategy in using sport as a vehicle to promote preventative health practices has seen IUIH achieve astounding success within the Indigenous health sector throughout South East Queensland, which is represented by a 4,000% increase in vital preventative health checks during the past 10 years.

“The history of anti-tobacco campaigns in Australia, particularly mainstream campaigns targeting our Indigenous communities, have always focused on the negative, trying to scare our people and it has never really worked in the past. What we see in the ‘Smokey Joe the Neighbour’ series are relatable situations for our young ones, which then allows a conversation to be started around the dangers of smoking and why it’s always a better option not to take up the use of tobacco. We’ve developed this new Deadly Choices Junior Tobacco Education Program around the positives of not smoking, particularly highlighting the importance of us looking after ourselves, our families, and our communities and framing anticipated outcomes around the significance of service provision through our community controlled health care services. Tobacco education is vital, as is the value of regular exercise and eating good food. Through Deadly Choices, we’re making a real difference in closing the health and life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and with the support and commitment of the Queensland and Australian Governments, momentum will continue to be enhanced over coming years.”

Adrian Carson, IUIH CEO

Some of the more pertinent themes touched on within the Smokey Joe the Neighbour series are the physical effects of smoking, the cultural history of generational smoking, general attitudes and perceptions towards smokers, the impacts smoking has on general health and lifestyle, the difficulties people encounter when trying to quit, plus the overriding financial burden of smoking on the individual.