Snake Charmers

Background – PhotoVoice Exhibition

SNAKE Condoms (also known as just SNAKE) is a direct output of the PhotoVoice initiative, a MSA/VACCHO project implemented in 2003.

Aboriginal Medical Services in three communities; Mildura Aboriginal Health Service in Mildura, Gunditjimarra Health Service in Warrnambool and Rumbalara Health Service in Shepparton, helped to run the project.

As part of the project, Aboriginal youth aged 13-17 from the three communities received training in photography and were asked to take photos of their daily lives focusing on sexual health as a theme.

Some of the key issues identified were substance abuse, boredom, teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse, barriers to condom accessibility, lack of culturally appropriate sexual health education, HIV/AIDS, STIs and even health service accessibility.

By putting cameras into the hands of young people and seeing first-hand what their feelings and attitudes were around sexual health, MSA and VACCHO were able to design sexual health initiatives, like SNAKE Condoms, that are tailored to the specific needs of Aboriginal youth.

Consulting Youth in Mildura

After the exhibition was launched, we conducted focus testing with Aboriginal youth in Mildura. This meant that we sat around, had a yarn, and discussed reasons why people may not want to use condoms and how we can overcome these barriers.

It was generally felt that condoms in the marketplace targeted white Australians and were not in any way culturally relevant to Aboriginal youth. It was also found that condoms are too expensive, aren’t generally available at times when most needed, and that the distribution of free condoms from local services was having little or no impact.

Therefore, to overcome these barriers, a new condom brand needed to be developed which was highly appealing to Indigenous people.

SNAKE Charmers

Another barrier to using condoms was about accessing them. Embarrassment when getting free condoms from a health service or buying them from a shop was mentioned a lot.

To make it easier and less embarrassing to get condoms, we trained a group of local youth to sell SNAKE Condoms to their friends at parties, discos, pubs and other places where young people like to hang out – as this is often where key decisions about sex are being made.

These youth were called SNAKE Charmers and they were trained in sexual health and sales techniques. The SNAKE Charmers were also able to make 100% profit from selling SNAKE whilst helping their community to stay safe!

These days, SNAKE Charmers no longer have the role of selling SNAKE Condoms to communities. They have taken on a new and important role as peer educators. These peer educators help other communities set up their own Snakefest and launch SNAKE Condoms into their community.

SNAKE Toolkit

The SNAKE Toolkit is designed to allow communities (like yours!) to launch SNAKE Condoms through an event (like Snakefest), to organise advertising around the community, train youth to sell/distribute condoms and order stock. If you would like to see SNAKE Condoms launched in your community please contact Marie Stopes Australia through email address: snake@mariestopes.org.au. For more information and to download a copy of the SNAKE Toolkit, see For Educators.