Breaking down barriers

By Brodie Cowburn   Photos Yanni

As the daughter of two Ghanaian immigrants, born in the UK and currently residing on the Mornington Peninsula, Naomi Kissiedu-Green is certainly no stranger to the idea of cultural diversity. Having travelled the world and experienced a wide range of cultural differences, she has seen with her own eyes the ways in which cultural diversity still remains an issue prevalent within society; Australian society in particular.

Having experienced first hand the barriers that can exist as a result of being perceived as different, Naomi is now committed to doing all that she can to make sure anybody in the world who might stand out as being different in the community is not just accepted, but embraced with open arms.

“Moving to Australia, it opened up my eyes a lot more, because it wasn’t as diverse as London where I had been living at the time. When I worked in childcare I’d get different kind of reactions, not only from the children, but also the workers who would be shocked to see me at the door. For me it’s all about representation. From being at the childcare centres I can see that there’s a lack of resources that reflects people of diverse cultures,” Naomi said.

“I became more passionate about the issue when I had my children, and I didn’t want them to go through all of the questions, or people looking at them strangely or differently. I just felt like they needed to be represented. I had to do something about it.”

For Naomi, the issue of cultural diversity has long been of discussion, as her parents migrated from their home in the West African country of Ghana to London in the hope of a better life for themselves and their future family of four kids.

After Naomi’s parents made the move, they were joined by other family members who are still based in the UK today.

Naomi now lives with her family in Mornington, with her husband, Australian Navy Officer Matthew Green, with whom she has three young children.

With her Ghanaian heritage, Naomi may be seen as standing out among the community in her current home on the Mornington Peninsula, but she is adamant in her cause that this is a positive thing, and should be embraced. To help spread her message of diversity and inclusivity, Naomi turned to writing.

“I wrote a book about my family’s experience with diversity and acceptance in a kid-friendly way. It explains about colour because there’s not many families that are multi-racial here. So for a lot of people they don’t understand, they’re always questioning my son, asking if he’s my son because of his skin colour, because he’s so much lighter than me. So I wanted to address in the book about families. I wanted people to see a different representation of what family could look like,” Naomi said.

“Just because someone’s different, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with that. In the book it talks about these differences in a friendly way. We’re all unique and we’re all different, but we should embrace it. But it’s not enough to just sit back and talk about it. We have to take action.”

Previously a childcare worker and a Project Runway model, Naomi’s new role of author helps her to spread her message to the world. With her writing, Naomi made the choice to target her books towards children, hoping to spread her message of acceptance and the importance of embracing those who might seem different to a younger audience.

“They’re the new generation. They’re the ones that are going to be asking if we want to be living in a new society where people are open minded, embracing, and where everybody is accepted. We need to educate them. Children are asking the questions and we need to have the answers,” Naomi said. “So if we have books that can actually tell them that it’s okay to be different they’ll educate the next generation. The children are the ones we have to start with.”

The books are not just aimed at the children, but also to the parents that will be reading them to their kids.

“The books have got parents notes and teachers notes too. It teaches you how to explain these things in a kid-friendly way that is simple and fun,” Naomi said. “Parents have told me that the book has made them think a little bit more by introducing them to different ideas of families.”

Between balancing her work and home life with her young children, it took Naomi a couple of years to get her first books published. To help with the process she would eventually have to self-publish her book in the US, after being told in Australia there would be no market for her work.

She has now published two books in her series The Colourful Life, titled ‘Same But Different’, and ‘Surprise Baby’.

Her next book, called ‘Same but different too!’ is due to released soon, and deals with the acceptance of same sex couples. The story is based on a same sex, multiracial family with three adopted children living on the peninsula.

Naomi is promoting the message of cultural diversity delivered in her books by using the hashtag #MixitupAus to help share information and encourage companies to be more inclusive.

Naomi loves living on the Mornington Peninsula.

“Raising kids here is fantastic, I love it,” Naomi said of living on the Mornington Peninsula.

“I’m just trying to make people more aware about inclusion and open up their minds. I love this area because I can see that people are very open minded and willing to accept change and embrace difference.”

First published in Peninsula Essence – November 2017