“Aboriginal Lucky Dolls”: Are these souvenirs offensive?

When someone thinks of Australian souvenirs, cute koalas and kangaroos spring to mind, however they weren’t the souvenirs that caught Robyn

When someone thinks of Australian souvenirs, cute koalas and kangaroos spring to mind, however they weren’t the souvenirs that caught Robyn Taubenfield’s eye when she visited Brisbane Airport this week.

In a Facebook post that has since been shared over 500 times, Miss Taubenfield showed an image of “Australian Aboriginal Lucky Dolls” on display in the International terminal’s souvenir shop.

The shop owner was accused of cultural misappropriation with many commenters questioning how the dolls came to be for sale in the first place.

Now the retailer that stocked the controversial dolls, Australian Way Pty Ltd, has promised to pull the range from shelves around Australia.

“These dolls ended up in our business by what I believe was an error of judgment made by a stockist,” Australian Way managing director Costa Kouros said.

“As soon as this was brought to my attention, I had all our stores remove the dolls from shelves”.

“We have stores in airports across Australia and we have agreements with certain suppliers. I wasn’t even aware we stocked this particular item,” he said.

After sharing the image on Twitter, Amy Brim told Fairfax Media, “My husband is [from the] Anmatjerre tribe in the Central Desert and the red headband is a symbol of initiated men.

“I feel like they’ve used our culture in a way that does not match the beliefs [or] lore of Aboriginal people,” she said.

“If they knew anything about the history, they would know there’s nothing ‘lucky’ about anything we’ve been through”.

A spokeswoman for Brisbane Airport Corporation Leonie Vandeven confirmed the airport had requested the removal of the dolls, reports the ABC.

“Our agreement with retail tenants does not extend to vetting specific types of products sold on site,” she said.

The situation would remind readers perhaps of the issues and conversation around Gollywog toys, which have been taken off shelves in recent years for similar reasons.

According to NITV, the dolls highlight the ongoing difficulties with inauthentic Aboriginal souvenirs being sold to tourists.

Take a look at the dolls below and tell us, do you think they are offensive or is this political correctness gone wrong?


Ummm…not sure what to say…Souvenirs at Brisbane International Airport.

Posted by Robin Taubenfeld on Wednesday, 16 December 2015

  1. Plenty of countries have dolls that represent their country. Maori dolls, Welsh dolls etc. Nothing wrong with it as long as they are in good taste.

  2. When I was a kid, my Canadian relatives sent me a native American Indian doll, complete with animal ‘skin’ clothes. I loved that doll more than all the rest put together. These ones are not offensive to me, but then I’m not an aboriginal person. Quite possibly, they are offensive to others.

    • No idea. I can only speak for myself. You’d have to ask someone who IS offended. Doesn’t worry me, as I’ve already said.

    • Sue, I’d suggest it’s not aborigines who might be offended but the PC brigade who think they might be…..or should be. Maybe we should just let the aborigines tell us if they’re offended instead of trying to second-guess them.

    • A few Aboroiginal folk have already commented on this site that they find them offensive. It was an Indigenous person who found them offensive and no doubt many more will if you like to go out and ask them. Using the PC bullshit brigade as an excuse for your ignorance and sensitivity to other cultures is too often used these days. Try a new excuse

  3. We are not allowed goliwogs, topsy Turvey dolls there are no dark dolls around like I had as a child why can they have these?

  4. I find them totally tasteless and insulting. No need to further encourage mindless racism, it happens easily enough with current media coverage anyway.

  5. PC Police at it again! I don’t find it offensive and wonder why everyone is up in arms over it! Some people should get a life…, it’s only a doll after all and you don’t see white Australians up in arms over barbi or any other white doll. Stupid and irrational behaviour!

  6. I can’t see a problem it’s the political correctness and narrow minded idiots of this world that are using the racism card at every opportunity that is causing so many racism problems. !

  7. I think people are being a little bit precious about this, should we be upset about all of the white dolls on the market, when I was in New Zealand you could get Maori dolls, Hawaii you could get hula dolls, I mean really

    • And I do toooo. An an African Doll hand made by a friend from South Africa….love em all

    • And I just came back from Vanuatu with dolls for my granddaughters. We all thought they were cute and the vanuatuun people were happy to sell them.

    • It is because it is deceptive .. Saying they are LUCKY Aboriginal dolls. We have no such doll in our culture.

    • But they were made by the Vanuatu people? Not made in China? I think that is the problem. Are the Maori dolls made by Maori? Or are they and the African dolls, and the Hula dolls made in China?

    • They were dressed by the Vanuatu woman who sold it to me. I didn’t take any notice of where it was made . Just thought they were cute.

    • I agree Lyn, l know someone in the UK that collects dolls from all over the world. I would like to think the Aussie ones were made here but probably aren’t

    • Oh really . Go away and get a life! Your example is breathtakingly stupid- it’s OFFENSIVE to us and your mealy mouthed dumb comments example your lack of cultural and emotional intelligence!

    • Wow Lydia what anger issues you have! Can you not comment without being such a rude and horrid person? No respect at all for people like you!

    • Caryn Spriggs maybe we should be looking at this from an aboriginal point of view. It is easy for us to make comment, but without understanding of the aboriginal culture, we really have no idea of the insult and hurt that things like these dolls cause the aboriginal people. Yes Lydia’s comments may seem rude or aggressive to us, but maybe if we tried to understand this from the aboriginal point of view then maybe we could see why these dolls are so wrong and would understand why Lydia’s comments may seem rude. I think I understand where she is coming from.

    • Racism is structural. We are embedded in a system, a culture that will attack outriders, those that buck the system, those that present indigenous people in positions of strength. The football player Adam Goodes experiences is a classic example. People say, oh he’s aggressive, he should get back in his box, he’s angry or he’s a sook. He’s really been told to accept the injustice in which he lives. This thread is a good example of that behaviour. The First Nations people of Australia were once a Federation of over six hundred nations. They had effective communication systems spanning the entire continent and embarked on stunning works of land management that today we are unable to replicate. They had good trading relationships with most of the Southern Hemisphere and were living in harmony with the land thousands of years before the pyramids were even an idea. They are the longest lived continuous culture in the worlds history and lived a better quality existence than Europeans with about thirty percent less effort and did it sustainably, a precious legacy that we destroyed. If we’d been smart we would have put them in charge when we invaded, their ethics were so much better than ours. We would have two cultures together, equally valued but rejoicing in diversity. Ah, that would be a world to live in, but instead we turned our energy to extermination. You talk about collecting dolls with no awareness of the back story, spending wealth gathered from cultures that have been oppressed and enslaved for centuries. Cultures that you delight to mock and belittle. You are woefully uninformed and I must say I agree with Lydia, culturally and emotionally immature. You don’t really have an excuse for your ignorance.

    • I think we are becoming way too politically correct sometimes, and no I am not dismissing the feelings of the aboriginals in any way shape or form..Oh actually looked at the stupid things. As the aboriginals have said they are not authentic, BUT they are just wood painted with native patterns. Still think PC gone mad.

    • Joan Rowe .Maori folk would never make shit like that. They are made in China like most rubbish souvenirs in souvenir shops. There are Authentic cultural items made by genuine Indigenous folk that tourists can buy..

    • Being part Aboriginal but not knowing about it till for many years I don’t like these dolls but then I don’t like Barbie dolls either. I like dolls that are REAL! I love Jon’s comment….we have so much

      because of our First People. …l just hope that we can all work together to
      reintroduce their way of life back to the
      tribes still around without government interference. They sshould be the ones to introduce souvenirs! As a young girl Icwas able to purchase an authentic boomerang from a group of Aboriginal artists…..this should be what’s available to tourists!

  8. they are offensive and from what I am told they are made in China without permission from the Indigenous people

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