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Rabbit-Proof Fence (1996)

de Doris Pilkington

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7902928,691 (3.4)72
This is the true account of Nugi Garimara's mother, Molly, made legendary by the film "Rabbit-Proof Fence." In 1931, Molly led her two sisters on an extraordinary 1600-kilometre walk across remote Western Australia. Aged eight, eleven and fourteen, they escaped the confinement of a government institution for Aboriginal children removed from their families. Barefoot, without provisions or maps, tracked by Native Police and search planes, the girls followed the rabbit-proof fence, knowing it would lead them home. Their journey -- longer than many of the celebrated walks of recognised explorers -- reveals a past more cruel than we could ever imagine.… (més)
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This is one of a series of books republished under the University of Queensland Press First Nations Classics series, which seeks to bring back to the attention of the public earlier books (novels, poetry, memoirs, other) written by First nations peoples.

The physical appearance is wonderful...seeing all 10 of the first issues (of which this is one) is mesmerising.

Rabbit Proof Fence is a story (though factual, not a novel) that is relatively well known, in my opinion, even if the detail is not. It gained a little more prominence following the publication of Sally Morgan's "My Place" and yet again after the release of the movie in 2002 of "Rabbit Proof Fence" (which I have not seen yet, though I have listened and love the soundtrack by Peter Gabriel). I am sure there are other works which have brought the story to the forefront, both before and after these mentioned.

It is said to be one of (if not the) first articulation (in the form of a book or extended portrayal) of the impact of the then policy of the WA Govt (we are talking of the 1930s) of (without consent, either of the children or their parents, nor of any actual evidence as to the children in question of them being in any actual or threatened harm or disadvantage) removing children from mixed (First Nations Peoples and others) from their families and sending them to facilities, where they are trained to be servants (of various descriptions) in a (my words) more Western society.

The book follows the tribulations of three girls, including the author, as they grow up in their community, before being removed from there and transported far away to such an institution, only to leave there to walk back home.

They do this notwithstanding they have no food or other supplies, the vast distance involved (said to be in the vicinity of 2400km), they being tracked by First Nations' trackers, that they were travelling across desert for much of the time and that when they came across remote farming/stock stations (where they asked for food/water) they were often thereafter reported by the station owners to those searching for the girls (aged 8-14).

They were successful in returning to their homes.

It is an extraordinary tale. And I have read some reviewers criticising the literary merit of the book. But I disagree, not because I think it is of high literary merit (and I mean no disrespect in saying so), but because it conveys an important part of our history. If one reds the journals of our European explorers, they often (if not always) read particularly well, even if they nevertheless convey relevant, if not important information, or at least context.

I would encourage those even mildly interested to give this a go, as I will with other issues in this series.

Big Ship

1 August 2023 ( )
  bigship | Aug 1, 2023 |
Based on a true event, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence is story of three young Aboriginal girls who, in the 1930s, cross the harsh Australian desert on foot to return to their home after being gathered up and being placed in a settlement school to be assimilated. The term “school” is used loosely here, these girls were basically being removed from their families and being trained to be servants to the whites. The Rabbit-Proof Fence is in actuality the State Barrier Fence of Western Australia built between 1901 and 1907 to keep rabbits and other agricultural pests out of Western Australian pastoral areas it is 3,256 km in length. As there were no major roads for the girls to follow, the fence became their guideline. The fact that these young girls, aged 14, 11 and 8 made it back to their families is astounding.

Unfortunately I found the book suffered from less than stellar writing. The author is actually the daughter of one of these young girls and it becomes very obvious that she isn’t a word-smith. The story is told in easy, step by step stages but there is no spark that allows the reader to feel part of the adventure. This was a jaw-dropping achievement and an amazing survival story and I would have loved to see it expressed in a more creative way. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Apr 27, 2021 |
This is the true story of three young Aboriginal girls who were taken from their families and put in a Native Settlement in Australia. The reason they were taken was because they were "half caste" (their fathers were white), and they were being forced to be "made white". They were 100s of miles away from their families, but they decided to escape. The knew there was a rabbit proof fence that would lead them back home, and if they found that, they would get back to their parents.



This book was very poorly written. It was unorganized and confusing and I had a very hard time getting into it. It took half of the 160 pages to even get to the story of the girls, and then it raced through their escape and return home. The book was so jumbled that I was sure it was written by a child. There is no plot development, no character development.....it was just a jumbled mess. The author switched back and forth between using Aboriginal words and English words, but never really takes the time to explain what the Aboriginal words meant. She wrote it as if all readers would know what she was talking about.



Just poor. Don't bother. ( )
  JenMat | Jan 10, 2019 |
Beginning at the turn of the 20th century and continuing into the 1970's, the government of Australia determined that children of mixed race, usually with Aboriginal mothers and European fathers, would be better off removed from their mothers and raised in institutional homes where they would be trained for the vocations they were deemed worthy of--usually farmhands for the boys and domestic servants for the girls. Doris Pilkington's aunt and mother were among the children wrenched from their others in the 1930's. Unlike many of the children who were removed from their homes, they escaped, and tried to run away back to their home more than 1000 miles away. To navigate, they used the "rabbit proof fence," which is a fence stretching north to south across most of Australia, constructed to contain the rabbits which had been imported to Australia and had multiplied so successfully that they were a major threat to farmers.

Pilkington writes this book, taking a long view, beginning with the history of Australia. Although she had a close relationship with two of the protagonists, who told her their story, she writes of them very distantly. I never felt that I was close to them or their emotions, or experiencing what they were feeling, as I did with the movie. I think this is one of the rare cases where the movie is better than the book.

2 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Dec 18, 2017 |
The story is a heart-breaking one which keeps the reader riveted to the page. The writing is okay, but not stellar. Tis short and can be read in one sitting. I read the book on the bus from Alice Springs to Coober Pedy. ( )
  untraveller | Dec 13, 2016 |
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To all of my mother's and aunty's children
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It was still very cool in the early summer morning; the fresh, clean air he breathed into his lungs felt good.
The trek back home to Jigalong in the north-west of Western Australia from the Moore River Native Settlement just north of Perth was not only a historical event, it was also one of the most incredible feats imaginable, undertaken by three Aboriginal girls in the 1930s.
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This is the true account of Nugi Garimara's mother, Molly, made legendary by the film "Rabbit-Proof Fence." In 1931, Molly led her two sisters on an extraordinary 1600-kilometre walk across remote Western Australia. Aged eight, eleven and fourteen, they escaped the confinement of a government institution for Aboriginal children removed from their families. Barefoot, without provisions or maps, tracked by Native Police and search planes, the girls followed the rabbit-proof fence, knowing it would lead them home. Their journey -- longer than many of the celebrated walks of recognised explorers -- reveals a past more cruel than we could ever imagine.

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