Stolen Generations – Rabbit Proof Fence

Rabbit Proof Fence is a good film to show classes learning about the Stolen Generations. Below are some resources that could be used when working with this topic and film:

Rabbit Proof Fence is a film set in Western Australia about the removal of three girls from their families to a mission school at Moore River Native Settlement. It is based on the book of the true story, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, written by Doris Pilkington, the daughter of Molly, one of three girls who have a central role in the film. The film shows the capture of the girls, their life at the mission, and their escape and journey home along the rabbit proof fence. It portrays the trauma of the forced removal of aboriginal children, the ideology behind the missions and the attitudes of non-indigenous Australians towards aboriginal people. The film can also give an introduction to aboriginal languages, culture, lifestyle, belief-systems and tracking skills.

rabbit_proof_fence_map_showing_route

Online resources and tasks for the film

  • The following website contains information and links that are suitable for advanced pupils. It discusses the history of the mission, Chief Protector A.O. Neville´s beliefs and role, and gives  direct quotations from some of those who experienced being taken away from their homes. It also relates the treatment of Aboriginal Australians to that of Native Americans:

http://www.teachwithmovies.org/guides/rabbit-proof-fence.html

(there are some discussion tasks at the end that I am less happy with, as I think they are poorly worded and lead pupils´answers in a certain direction. However, they may give ideas as to other tasks that could be used in class).

  • This resource is suitable for intermediate pupils. It is made up of worksheets (the student copies are at the end of the document) that the pupils answer as they are watching the film. It also has introductory activities and a plot summary:

http://curriculumproject.org/wp-content/uploads/Rabbit-Proof%20Fence%20Nov%2010.pdf

Extra materials

1. An interview with Everlyn Sampi, who played Molly:

Everlyn Sampi´s life has not been that of many child stars. Why is that? This article could open discussions into the condition of Aboriginal people in Australia in modern times.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/jun/18/rabbit-proof-fence-everlyn-sampi

Behind the scenes video about the making of the film (14 min):

2.Molly Kelly´s obituary

Molly Kelly died in 2004, aged 87. She was sent back to Moore River for a second time in 1940. This time she was sent there with her daughters – 4 year old Doris (who later wrote the book) and 18 month old Annabelle. She escaped for a second time and carried Annabelle back home along the fence:

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/01/14/1073877905204.html

3. Aboriginal paintings

When the fences were put up in Western Australia, they cut through the traditional lands and paths that had been used by Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years. Later on these traditional paths were destroyed by stock routes.

The paintings below express artists´feelings about the building of the fence and the stock routes (photos taken at an exhibit at National Museum of Australia, Canberra) :

4. The problem of rabbits in Australia

The rabbit proof fence was meant to stop the spread of rabbits into Western Australia. Rabbits are not native to Australia and were introduced in 1859 for hunting. Within 50 years they had spread across the country, causing great damage to flora and fauna.

As you can see from this video (from National Museum of Australia, Canberra), the fence didn´t have any great effect:

You can read more about the spread of the rabbits and the problems they caused on the museum website:

http://www.nma.gov.au/online_features/defining_moments/featured/rabbits_introduced

rabbit-lorry-685w

Lorry-load of rabbits, Braidwood, New South Wales, early 20th century. From National Museum of Australia.