Rabbit Proof Fence
Wide Reading and Textual Resources
- Once you are familiar with your text and have read it, start using other resources to develop your understanding.
- You can use quotes or ideas from critics.
- Important not to plagiarise this material: but use it to develop your personal understanding.
Understanding your text
The steps to understanding your text:
- Plot summary
- Historical context
- Analysis of techniques
- Belonging themes and ideas
- Reviews and critics opinions
Plot Summary of Rabbit Proof Fence
Set in Western Australia during the 1930s.
- Film begins in the remote town of Jigalong.
- Sisters Molly and Daisy and their cousin Gracie live with their mother and grandmother.
- The town lies on the northern part of the rabbit-proof fence.
- The “protector” of Western Australian Aborigines, A.O. Neville, orders the three girls to his re-education camp.
- The children are forcibly taken from Jigalong and taken to the camp at Moore River.
- “Half-castes” live at the camps and are taught to become servants.
- The girls decide to walk home.
- An Aboriginal tracker, Moodoo is called to find them.
- The girls disguise their tracks and evade Moodoo, getting help from strangers.
- They eventually find the Rabbit Proof Fence: Neville realises and sends Constable Riggs to find them.
- Neville spreads word that Gracie’s mother is waiting for her at Wiluna.
- Gracie finds this out through a stranger “helping her” and she breaks off from the group to go to Wiluna by train.
- Riggs appears and Gracie is re-captured. Molly and Daisy continue on.
- After weeks following the fence, the sisters near Jigalong, guided by chanting.
- Riggs is waiting there, but is afraid of the town’s women who have been chanting heavily in the brush.
- He is frightened away by the mother and grandmother with a sharpened stick in the brush.
- The epilogue shows recent footage of Molly and Daisy.
- Gracie died having never got back to Jigalong.
- Molly had her own two daughters: the three were taken back to Moore River.
- She escaped with Annabelle, but she was taken away a second time and lost.
Who is director Phillip Noyce
- Born in Griffith, NSW and moved to Sydney at age 12.
- 1973: selected to attend the Australian National Film School.
- Travelled USA and UK but returned to Australia in 1982.
- This began his focus on Australian themes and issues seen in the Rabbit Proof Fence.
Understanding your text
- As we have discussed, understanding the context of your text is vital.
- The Aboriginal people during this period were treated very poorly and cruelly.
- The Aboriginal culture and “WASP” culture compete for prominence in this text.
Director Phillip Noyce:
“Australia’s called the
Lucky Country, because we always thought there’s so much to go round. Well, if that’s the case, why were these people locked up behind this fence…?”
History and Background
- 1890-1958 → the Native Welfare Act governed lives of Noongar people.
- Two state-run mission camps at Moore River and Carrolup.
- “Home” to one third of the Aboriginal population.
- A government enquiry estimates at least 35 000 children were removed from their parents.
- 10–30% of all Aboriginal children born during this seventy-year period were removed.
- The Stolen Generation
- Aim to breed out Aboriginal culture and race → white.
- Children taught “white” skills such as domestic skills and labour.
- Christianity was the focus at the cost of traditional religions.
The Stolen Generation
- Viewed today as human rights abuse and injustice.
- Extensive family and cultural damage.
- Intention: child welfare
- Apology on 12 February 2008 by Kevin Rudd
Assimilate “half castes” into white society.
Ensure Aborigines of mixed descent would marry Caucasian people.
Title cards of movie: “For 100 years the Aboriginal Peoples have resisted the invasion of their lands by white settlers.”
- Children between two and four were removed forcibly.
- Some just hours after birth: lie that they had died.
- Some Aboriginal parents chose to send their children voluntarily to allow contact.
- Birth details and family history lost.
“I got everything that could be reasonably expected: a good home environment, education, stuff like that, but that’s all material stuff. It’s all the
non-material stuff that I didn’t have — the lineage …
You know, you’ve just come out of nowhere; there you are.”
– Aboriginal Woman
“I would not hesitate to separate any half-caste from its aboriginal mother, no matter how frantic momentary grief might be at the time. They soon forget their offspring.”