Let's talk: are gollywog dolls racist?

A market stall owner on the Mornington Peninsula is facing huge backlash after being ousted by a customer for selling tea towels with images of gollywog dolls on them.

Melbourne University pro-vice chancellor Ian Anderson was attending the Easter market on Sunday on the Mornington Peninsula with a group of young aboriginal children when he saw the stand displaying the tea towels.

He says he and the group he was with were sick to their stomachs when they saw the images.

“They have a kind of superficial charm about them, they’re sort of innocent,” Prof Anderson told The Age.

“They’re the sort of thing that is part of kids’ stories. But they are deeply out of place in Australian society.

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“What’s at the core of them is a really disturbing stereotype of indigenous Australia, of black people. It’s naive and out of place.”

Image: The Age.
Image: The Age.

Prof Anderson, whose family are Palawa Trowerna from the Pyemairrenner mob in Tasmania, says those kinds of ideas stop Australia moving forward.

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“They did not see themselves as an apron-wearing domestic servant, or a naive stupid object for children.

“That’s what’s so jarring about it. It’s almost like a photocopy of an idea from our colonial past.”

Gollywog dolls have been a subject of fierce debate in Australia for some time now with many divided over whether it is just an innocent doll, or a racist and demeaning symbol of our past.

What do you think?

Are gollywog dolls racist? Or is there nothing wrong with them?