A new film about three Aborigine girls who walked 1,000 miles through the outback reveals the truth
Australia's Stolen Generations.
THE writer Doris Pilkington grew up believing that her mother had deliberately abandoned her at the age of
four in a forbidding state-run institution far away from her family, her people and her birthplace in the
Western Australian desert. "I really resented her. The thought that my mother just gave me away haunted and
At the Moore River Native Settlement north of Perth - a cheerless internment camp for cross-breed
Aboriginal children - the windows were barred and any child who attempted escape was punished with
solitary confinement. Here, Doris's native tongue - Mardujara - was beaten out of her.
"Every time I spoke in my own language," she says, her measured English betraying no hint of rancour as
she sits opposite me in the bar of an Edinburgh hotel, "I was told: 'You don't talk blackfella language
Now 65 - an imposing greyhaired figure, whose floral dress and silver jewellery suggest a certain
bohemian grandeur - Doris clearly remembers the day 40 years ago when she was finally reunited with
her mother, Molly Craig, and first learned the truth. Far from being abandoned, she had been stolen,
forcibly separated from her mother as part of an official government policy to "assimilate" half-castes
and quarter-castes into white Australia and train thern to enter "civilised" society as servants and
"When I confronted my mother about it, when I asked her why she had deserted me, my mum just broke down.
She said, 'I didn't give you away, the government took you away. And it hurt me so much to have to leave
you.' It was such a moving moment between us. That is when I decided to learn more about my own culture,
and to research the policies and the politics that had affected our lives."
Doris's decision took her on a long journey of self-discovery, during which she learnt that she had no
monopoly on childhood suffering: her mother had been through exactly the same misery at Moore River Native
Settlement - with one key difference. Molly escaped.
In 1931, the 14-year-old Molly seized her little sister Daisy and her cousin Gracie by the hand and
walked more than 1,000 miles horne aeross baking desert to the outback station of Jigalong, taking
as her guide the immense rabbit-proof fence that crossed the desert.
The girls' extraordinary trek as written up by Doris in her acclaimed 1996 book, Follow the Rabbit-Proof
Fence - has now been turned into a controversial, moving and highly praised film which tackles one of the
ugliest aspects of recent Australian history.
Rabbit-Proof Fence, directed by the Australian Phillip Noyce on a budget of just £4 million, is a visually
stunning, simply told story. When it had its premiere in Sydney earlier this year, paper handkerchiefs
were left on every seat in the house - with good reason.
The English-born Neville was the prime mover behind the halfcaste removals, believing that the offspring
of Aboriginal women and white men belonged with their fathers' race . The underlying purpose of the policy
he enforced, which affected tens of thousands of mixed-race Australians between 1905 and 1971, was to
encourage miscegenation between "near-white" females and white males, thus stealthily and systematically
breeding out the darkness of Australia's indigenous peopie. The process, which has been described as
attempted genocide, created what are now known as the Stolen Generations.
Doris insists the film has done a "great job" of telling her family's story, recalling with a smile
the reception it received when screened at Jigalong, the community the runaways struggle to reach-and
where Molly and Daisy, now in their eighties, still live. "It was the first time that many of the
Aborigines there had seen a film on a big screen. It was a very exciting moment, just magic. Even the
men were crying and coming up to give me a hug."
The film, like Doris's book, climaxes with Molly's triumphant return home. But reality was messier and
more complex. On her return Molly married an Aborigine and had two children: Doris and Annabelle. She
was then taken back to Moore River with her children. Molly again eseaped - making the same extraordinary
journey for a second time, this time with her baby in her arms; but she was unable to rescue Doris and had
to leave her behind.
Doris was eventually transferred from Moore River to a Christian mission where she learnt to read and
write and behave like a "civilised" child. "The missionaries brainwashed me to think that my people were
devil worshippers, that their culture was evil, says Doris. "People like me were made to feel ashamed of
their relationship to their own people, to the indigenous people of Western Australia. I was the daughter
of a part-Aboriginal woman and a black man. But I did not want the white girls in the mission to know that;
so I used to tell them that my father was a white man too.
Source: The Sunday Telegraph of Sep. 1, 2002
1. Why was Doris Pilkington taken to the Moore River Native Settlement?
2. Describe Dopris' life in the internment camp.
3. What happened to Doris' mother and descibe her fate.
4. What was the reason for Australia's haf-caste removal policy between 1905 and 1971?
5. Summarize the plot of the film.