Rabbit-proof Fence is a powerful film based on the true story and experiences of three young Aboriginal girls, Molly, Gracie and Daisy, who were forcibly taken from their families in Jigalong, Western Australia in 1931. The film puts a human face on the 'Stolen Generations', a phenomenon which characterised relations between the government and Aborigines in Australia for much of the 20th century. The girls were taken away to be trained as domestic servants at the Moore River Native Settlement, north of Perth. This was consistent with official government assimilationist policy of the time decreeing that 'half caste' children should be taken from their kin and their land, in order to be 'made white'.
Focusing on the escape of the three girls from Moore River in the 1930s, the film highlights the despair experienced by mothers whose children were taken, and the terror and confusion of those children, snatched from familiar surroundings and forced to adapt to European ways. Led by fourteen-year-old Molly, the girls defy all odds to travel 1600 kilometres through unfamiliar territory to return to their land, their homes and families in North-Western Australia, with the authorities chasing them all the way.
Rabbit-proof Fence is a true story, based on the book, Follow the Rabbit-proof Fence written by Doris Pilkington, Molly's daughter. At the end of the film, we see Molly, aged eighty-four, and Daisy aged seventy-eight, who are still living in Jigalong today.
The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation argues that the truth must be spoken and acknowledged by all Australians before reconciliation can occur. Rabbit-proof Fence will show viewers truths that many have not seen or heard about before. The Council tells us that:
It was standard practice … Children were taken from their homes … Whole communities were shifted from their home to another part of the country. Aboriginal life has been regulated and supervised at almost every turn. There was no choice.
(Reconciliation and Its Key Issues: Improving Relationships, no.2.)
The themes and activities developed in this study guide will have interest and relevance for teachers and students from the middle to senior years studying these subjects:
- Studies of Society and Environment
- Australian History
- Cultural Studies
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
- Personal Development
- Religious Studies
- Media Studies
In addition to the specific focus on the issue of the Stolen Generations, Rabbit-proof Fence explores themes such as Aboriginal spirituality, relationships with the land, family bonds, courage, determination and faith.