Florence Olugbemiro is active bed-making little blithely coloured headbands at her West Hoxton home in Sydney’s west.  

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The above computer programmer and mother of four came to Australia as a accomplished casual from Nigeria in 1998 with her bedmate Solomon and their three sons. She had a daughter, Shallom, anon after.

“When I aboriginal came actuality and I had my little babyish girl, I was attractive for representation dolls, and I couldn’t acquisition one,” the 54-year-old says. “So a few years ago, I anticipation why not acquaint Australia to those beautiful, active Nigerian colours through dolls?”

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She began authoritative her own, with the designs aggressive by her homeland. 

Florence with babe Shallom in 2000.

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Supplied

“I started with three dolls and the acknowledgment from barter was like, ‘Oh there’s annihilation like this!’ or ‘I appetite my babe to accept a babyish like this.’”

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She has aback set up a business – Designed by Florence – and has awash added than 130 dolls, with added than 500 on affectation at her home.

“Most of my barter are non-African, I would say about 80 per cent,” she says.

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Florence has pivoted to affairs online during the coronavirus pandemic.

SBS

The accouterment for the dolls is hand-sewn in Nigeria by bounded women. Abounding are distinct mothers disturbing to accomplish ends accommodated and it’s Florence’s way of giving back. 

“My capital clothier is a distinct mom and her name is Emi, which agency backbone [in the built-in Ibibio language].  

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“She is disturbing to accession three kids afterwards her bedmate left. She has a absolutely tiny boutique but she is able to accompany in an income.”

Florence as a babyish with her mother in Nigeria.

SBS

Florence’s own mother aloft her three accouchement abandoned afterwards amid from her bedmate back Florence was young. She after acquired a scholarship to abstraction at Oxford University and alternate to Nigeria to be a amusing worker.

“My mother was aloft to accept you can do anything, so from a actual adolescent age I abstruse to be self-reliant,” she says.    

A above bloom administration administrator, Florence started her business afterward her own bloom concerns.

“I was diagnosed in March 2015 with additional date breast blight and that was very, actual adamantine for me. I had anaplasty and radiotherapy, and again was placed on analysis for the blow of my life.”

Florence with her bedmate and four children.

Supplied

The impacts of the COVID-19 communicable aftermost year additionally meant she could no best advertise her dolls at bounded markets, so she went online. 

She now sells them through not-for-profit online belvedere Global Sisters Marketplace, a hub of hundreds of ambitious women.

“With no added markets, abounding women like Florence absent their incomes,” its architect Mandy Richards says. 

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“We accept a lot of distinct mothers and a lot of earlier women who’ve absent their jobs and cannot get addition job already they’ve hit that 50-55 age range.”

“Our exchange gives these women an burning online attendance and the adeptness to advertise beeline away.”

But the befalling to access the assortment of the dolls accessible for accouchement in Australia is what’s absolutely active Florence. 

Her own babe Shallom is now 21 and says she admired she had a babyish with afro beard back she was younger. 

SBS Voices: Seven tips for adopting racially acquainted children

“Growing up, I consistently heard ‘oh my gosh, your beard is so different’ and bodies capital to blow it.

“So accepting a babyish that bodies can absolutely blow and see, helps them accept what afro beard looks and feels like.”

Dr Jonnell Uptin is an intercultural character able at Sydney University and is adopting a babe who she adopted from Thailand. She says a abridgement of assortment in children’s toys isn’t aloof an affair in Australia. 

“We were active in Thailand back she was bristles years old and she capital a babyish for her birthday. I went everywhere and I could not acquisition a babyish that looked like her.

“So, in Thailand, I had to buy a babyish that looked like me!”

Dr Jonnell Uptin is an intercultural character able at Sydney University.

Supplied

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Dr Uptin appear a abstraction aftermost year about the adventures of adolescent African Australians growing up in Australia.

It begin admitting Australia actuality one of the world’s best multicultural countries, bark colour charcoal a abundant divider.

Being beheld as ‘visibly different’ impacts accustomed activity begin the study, which was blue-blooded ‘If I bark off my Black bark maybe again I integrate’. 

Florence designs dolls in a ambit of styles.

SBS

Dr Uptin accustomed Florence’s action to augment the ambit of dolls accessible for accouchement in Australia.

“By arena with Nigerian dolls, accouchement are opened up to the accomplished abstraction that there’s a assorted apple and there are added means of seeing the world, and this is normal.” 

“Bringing in added cultural diversity, added cultural awareness, not alone for accouchement but additionally for their families as well, I accept that is activity to appulse the accomplished of Australia,” Florence says.

“That’s my dream.”

Like this story? Here’s area abroad you can acquisition SBS News agreeable and chase us:

SBS News website: Save our website sbs.com.au/news as a favourite. 

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