'The film Rabbit-Proof Fence is based on this true account of Doris Nugi Garimara Pilkington's mother Molly, who as a young girl led her two sisters on an extraordinary 1,600 kilometre walk home. Under Western Australia's invidious removal policy of the 1930s, the girls were taken from their Aboriginal family at Jigalong on the edge of the Little Sandy Desert, and transported halfway across the state to the Native Settlement at Moore River, north of Perth...
The three girls - aged 8, 11 and 14 - managed to escape from the settlement's repressive conditions and brutal treatment. Barefoot without provisions or maps, they set out to find the rabbit-proof fence, knowing it passed near their home in the north. Tracked by native police and search planes, they hid in terror, surviving on bush tucker, desperate to return to the world they knew.
The journey to freedom - longer than many of the legendary walks of [the Australian nation's] explorer heroes... told from family recollections, letters between the authorities and the Aboriginal Protector, and ... newspaper reports of the runaway children.' Source: Publisher's blurb
Based on real life events that occurred in 1931, Rabbit-Proof Fence is the story of three mixed-race Aboriginal children who are forcibly abducted from their mothers by the Western Australian government. Molly (aged fourteen), her sister Daisy (aged eight), and their cousin Gracie (aged ten) are taken from their homes at Jigalong, situated in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, at the orders of the Protector of Aborigines, A.O. Neville, and sent to an institution at Moore River to be educated and trained as domestic servants. After a few days, Molly leads the other two girls in an escape. What ensues is an epic journey that tests the girls' will to survive and their hope of finding the rabbit-proof fence to guide them home.
Although they are pursued by the institution's Aboriginal tracker and the police, Molly knows enough about bush craft to help them hide their tracks. They head east in search of the world's longest fence - built to keep rabbits out - because Molly knows that this will lead them back to Jigalong. Over the course of nine weeks, the girls walk almost 2,400 kilometres before Gracie is captured attempting to catch a train. Molly and Daisy avoid capture but eventually collapse from exhaustion on the saltpans not far from Jigalong. When they wake, they see the spirit bird, an eagle, flying overhead. Its significance gives the girls the extra energy they need and they are able to make it back to their home.
Unit Suitable For
Unit Suitable For
AC: Year 9 (NSW Stage 5)
Aboriginality, bravery, coming of age, family, hardship, home, identity, importance of story, Power, resistance, Stolen Generations, survival
Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding, Information and communication technology, Intercultural understanding, Literacy, Numeracy, Personal and social
Anna Haebich investigates how the West Australian Department of Indigenous Affairs archives (1898-1972) have been utilised by Indigenous writers/researchers.
'Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (1996) is the story of three young Aboriginal girls, sisters Molly and Daisy and their cousin Gracie, taken from their parents by government authorities in 1931, to live far from their home at the harsh Moore River Native Settlement. Written originally by Doris Pilkington Garimara, it was adapted as a film under the title Rabbit-Proof Fence, directed by Philip Noyce (2002). The children were part of what is now known as the stolen generations and their story remains profoundly relevant to the lives of a great many Aboriginal children and their families. While there has been significant critical response to the text both itself and in the context of its adaptation, specifically in the realm of Australian Cultural Studies, it is pertinent and necessary to consider also the social context of the story. This is coming from the perspective of Aboriginal human rights and social justice.' (Introduction)
'This article looks at the ideological ramifications of the narrative strategies that twentieth-century Aboriginal prose texts use to negotiate indigenous Australian identities. The central thesis is that after a period during which narratives by Aboriginal authors by necessity followed the form of the life histories to detail the actual experiences of oppression under the British settlers and past Australian governments, more recent indigenous Australian narratives are expressive of a regained confidence in playfully asserting Aboriginal identities. One can observe three developments in indigenous Australian narratives of the late twentieth century. First, the mode of fiction gradually increases its prevalence. Second, there has been a movement away from reports of what the colonisers did to indigenous Australians towards the foregrounding of more rebellious Aboriginal characters. Third, one can detect a significant increase in playfulness in narratives by indigenous Australian authors.' (Publication abstract)
In this essay Heiss demonstrates that stories, poetry, songs, plays and memoirs are 'living' evidence of truths otherwise untold or appropriated (Source: Introduction)