A prominent Indigenous author, filmmaker and academic is calling for Australians to boycott stores that sell Golliwog dolls, after a recent display of the toys at a Toowoomba chemist sparked outrage.
A photo of the controversial dolls placed underneath a sign that reads “Experience a White Christmas” in a Queensland branch of Terry White Chemists, was circulated on Facebook this week.
Kullilli man Dr Stephen Hagan tells SBS the display is deeply offensive to people of colour and that Golliwog dolls should not be sold in modern Australia.
“There’s no place for Golliwogs in Australian society now,” he says, “to me and to all people of colour, it’s a depiction of a racist era when black people didn’t have any rights.”
“Putting up a Golliwog in a store, first of all represents to me that they don’t care what Aboriginal people think about the Golliwog.
"If they would have gone out and spoken to Indigenous people with some standing in the community they would tell them it’s expressly offensive and shouldn’t be on counters in the first place.”
Alwyn Baumann, the managing partner of the Terry White Chemists Toowoomba branch agrees, and tells SBS in a statement that they are sorry for the display and the stocking of the dolls and have since pulled the them from sale.
“We unreservedly apologise if we have caused offence to our customers or any member of our local or broader community for selling this product,” Baumann says.
“We have made a regrettable error in choosing to stock this product. Staff have removed the product from our shelves and we will be returning all purchased stock to the supplier. We will not stock this product in the future.”
Terry White management further add that the doll “is not part of our national line of endorsed products” and that they have “taken immediate action to audit all pharmacies within our network to ensure this product, if present in any other pharmacy, is withdrawn from sale.”
They say they will also re-assess their stocking guidelines so a similar incident does not happen again.
Golliwog dolls became a symbol of racial insensitivity in the 1960s, however they are still widely sold throughout Australia, particularly in more rural communities.
Earlier this year, a toy shop in Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building decided to remove the dolls from their shelves after facing pressure from an online petition.
While Dr Hagan congratulates Terry White for the swiftness of their response, he urges Aboriginal people and their supporters across Australia to boycott any store that continues to stock Golliwog dolls.
In reference to pharmacies in particular he says, “Aboriginal people are among the sickest race of people in Australia, don’t go to chemists that sell Golliwog dolls, spend your money elsewhere."
He wants to see the opinions and feelings of Aboriginal Australians valued, and is saddened by the fact that certain people “still perpetuate this myth that [the Golliwog] is a harmless little doll, and portray us as being overly sensitive because we’re taking offence."
"They just don’t get it," he says.
The origins of the Golliwog dates back to a late 19th century children's book and is associated with the tradition of white performers wearing blackface on stage.
The name has been mistakenly associated with the British occupation of Egypt, where local workers were said to have worn armbands that read, "W.O.G.S." for “Working on Government Service”, however this is a false etymology and has nothing to do with the term "Golliwog" or "wog".
Nevertheless, it has recently been used as an argument to defend the dolls as not racist.
Dr Hagan has a long history with the city of Toowoomba after he engaged in a drawn-out legal battle with the local civic administration and Mayor over the use of the word “n*gger” in the town’s E.S. “N*gger” Brown Stand at the Clive Berhofer Stadium.
“I lost in the Federal Court and I was refused access to the High Court when I sought leave to appeal to the High Court,” he explains.
“I then took it to the United Nations in Geneva where there were black judges on the panel and they found the word ‘n*gger’ offensive in the context of sign.”
The grandstand was subsequently demolished in 2009.