Teaching Rabbit Proof Fence


Background:    

rabbit proof fenceDuring the first half of the 20th century, the government of Australia took children of mixed Aboriginal/white origins from their homes, trained them in boarding schools, and sent them to work in white communities. Most of the children never saw their parents again. The purpose was to break up mixed families, teach the children “civilized” ways, and absorb them, culturally and genetically, into white society. This movie is the true story of three young girls who ran away from boarding school at the Moore River Settlement. Living off the land and on handouts, they eluded trackers and the police for months. Source: Teach with movies

Casting a measured gaze on a shameful chapter of Australian history, ”Rabbit-Proof Fence” makes no bones about who is right and wrong in its devastating portrayal of that country’s disgraceful treatment of its Aborginal population for much of the last century. Although the movie, adapted from a book by Doris Pilkington Garimara, pushes emotional buttons and simplifies its true story to give it the clean narrative sweep of an extended folk ballad, it never goes dramatically overboard.

Rabbit-Proof Fence (film)
Rabbit-Proof Fence (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the side of right are the Australian Aborigines whose families were torn apart by a government policy of forcibly removing children of mixed race from their Outback communities and transporting them to settlement camps hundreds of miles away. Once in the camps, they were forbidden to speak their native language and were indoctrinated into the religion and customs of the dominant white culture. Eventually they were integrated into the general population as domestic servants and farm laborers.

On the side of wrong is the Australian government, which, for more than half a century (from 1905 to 1971) carried out this appalling program of legalized kidnapping. ”Rabbit-Proof Fence” is set in 1931, when the executor of that policy was A. O. Neville (Kenneth Branagh), a man so intransigently certain of its ultimate benefit to everyone involved that he makes Rudyard Kipling seem benign. Source: The New York Times

Lesson plan

Before watching the movie give the students this study sheet from the Australian department of Education. Each student reads page 4 and highlights the most important facts. First discuss what you found in pairs then discuss the facts in class.

After watching the movie read the points found here and write a post on your blog and choose three or more of the questions below:

  1. What period of history is described in the movie?
  2. Your reflections on the topic, what did you know before you saw the movie and read the background, and what did you learn today?
  3. Review the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What was wrong with what the Australians were doing with the half-caste children?
  4. Do you think the girls could have really walked all that way?
  5. Did the “biological absorption” program treat the half-caste children with respect? Explain the reasons supporting your answer.
  6. Could you design a policy to educate half-caste children living with Aboriginal mothers so that they could advance in the Australian economy and yet respect their Aboriginal heritage? Source: Teach with movies

Play the game found here!

3 comments

  1. After many refusals and denials that the Stolen Generation had happened the Australian Government finally apologised. This is now celebrated as ‘Sorry Day”

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