'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.
'Central Australia is widely characterised as a frontier, a familiar trope in literary constructions of Australian identity that divides black from white, ancient from modern. However, recent anthropological and literary evidence from the Red Centre defies such a clear-cut representation, suggesting more nuanced ‘lifeworlds’ than a frontier binary can afford may better represent the region. Using walking narratives to mark a meeting point between Aboriginal and settler Australian practices of placemaking, this paper summarises and updates literary research by the author (2011–2015), which reads six recounted walks of the region for representations of frontier and home. Methods of textual analyses are described and results appraised for changes to the storied representation of Central Australia from the precolonial era onward. The research speaks to a ‘porosity’ of intercultural boundaries, explores literary instances of intercultural exchange; nuances settler Australian terms for place, including home, Nature and wilderness; and argues for new place metaphors to supersede ‘frontier’. Further, it suggests a recent surge in the recognition of Aboriginal songlines may be reshaping the nation’s key stories.' (Publication abstract)
'The study examines the ways in which Indigenous women’s non-fiction published in the 1990s contributed to theoretical articulations of Indigenous feminism and to a historiographic counter-discourse which has intervened into the dominant narratives of nation-building in settler colonies. Personal non-fiction and life writing by Native American authors Paula Gunn Allen and Anna Lee Walters (USA), by First Nations authors Lee Maracle and Shirley Sterling (Canada), and by Aboriginal authors Jackie Huggins and Doris Pilkington Garimara (Australia) are analyzed in detail to demonstrate how a hybrid writing style, combining scholarly criticism with auto/biography and fictionalized storytelling, is used to inscribe Indigenous women’s cultural difference, subjugated knowledges, transgenerational trauma from colonization, and resistance to forced assimilation.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'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)