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Community & Business

5 August, 2023

Doll named after Penelope Towney

By Emily Middleton

Having a doll that looks like you is something special, and that’s exactly how Penelope Towney felt when Dollies Tribe asked to create a doll after her.

Nine-year-old Wiradjuri and Palawa girl, Penelope, is the great granddaughter of Jack Towney. She has been making waves in the storytelling scene with her own TV show ‘The Land We’re On’ on SBS, is about to launch a YouTube channel, and has previously been named as Australia’s youngest First Nations filmmaker.

Her impact on people around the nation is profound, so it’s not surprise the makers of Dollies Tribe, Bundjalung mother and daughter Maryanne and Savannah, approached Penelope.

“I met the doll makers of Dollies Tribe at an event last year, and they gifted me one of their dolls,” Penelope said.

“Maryanne told us her daughter Savannah said that day, she really to name one of her dolls after me.

“When I was out in Gil late last year preparing to lay my Poppy Towney (the late Graeme 'Doongbung' Towney) to rest, we received a phone call from Dollies Tribe, asking if they could name their curly haired, brown eyed doll ‘Penelope’!”

For Penelope, this was an honour and a bit surreal. She described that Dollies Tribe dolls celebrated diversity in First Nations peoples.

“You can have fair skin, blue eyes or blonde hair and still be a proud Blakfulla. It's all about who your mob is and what's in your heart.”

Penelope worked with Wanda Wandanian Artist, Amethyst Downing, to customise five 'Penelope Dolls'. There, they eco-dyed the costumes and then screen printed different symbols on to the outfits that are all really special to Penelope.

 “Amethyst even gave some of the dolls possum skin cloaks and accessories. We did this to raise money for my YouTube channel, 'Towney Time' which will be released next month. It was very special working with Amethyst and watching her throughout the eco-dying process,” Penelope said.

“It was a bittersweet moment for me when I found out that Dollies Tribe wanted to make and sell dolls that looked like me and had my name, because it was the first bit of news I wasn't able to tell my Poppy Towney about. I think he'd be really proud about it. I feel proud too.”

Penelope said that she comes from a long line of storytellers, and that is why she wants to keep sharing her culture with the world. She says that when her great grandfather Jack Towney was her age, he wasn’t allowed to practice his culture.

“Blakfullas have always passed on their knowledge and lore through storytelling and I think it's really important to keep that going, to keep our stories strong,” she said.

“Before the floods of 55', Poppy Towney lived with my great grandfather Jack Towney, my great-grandmother Madeline Towney (nee Naden) and his siblings, by the riverbed in a shack made from flattened cans. When Pop was my age, he wasn't allowed to practise his culture or speak in language. I share my culture for the future generations and I also share it for those who couldn't.”

Penelope hopes that anyone who gets to own a Penelope doll loves them and takes it with them to spe- cial places while doing fun things. 

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