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y separately published work icon Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence single work   biography  
Issue Details: First known date: 1996... 1996 Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'The film Rabbit-Proof Fence is based on this true account of Doris Nugi Garimara Pilkington's mother Molly, who as a young girl led her two sisters on an extraordinary 1,600 kilometre walk home. Under Western Australia's invidious removal policy of the 1930s, the girls were taken from their Aboriginal family at Jigalong on the edge of the Little Sandy Desert, and transported halfway across the state to the Native Settlement at Moore River, north of Perth...

The three girls - aged 8, 11 and 14 - managed to escape from the settlement's repressive conditions and brutal treatment. Barefoot without provisions or maps, they set out to find the rabbit-proof fence, knowing it passed near their home in the north. Tracked by native police and search planes, they hid in terror, surviving on bush tucker, desperate to return to the world they knew.

The journey to freedom - longer than many of the legendary walks of [the Australian nation's] explorer heroes... told from family recollections, letters between the authorities and the Aboriginal Protector, and ... newspaper reports of the runaway children.' Source: Publisher's blurb




form y separately published work icon Rabbit-Proof Fence Christine Olsen , ( dir. Phillip Noyce ) Australia : Rumbalara Films Olsen Levy Productions , 2002 Z919523 2002 single work film/TV (taught in 15 units)

Based on real life events that occurred in 1931, Rabbit-Proof Fence is the story of three mixed-race Aboriginal children who are forcibly abducted from their mothers by the Western Australian government. Molly (aged fourteen), her sister Daisy (aged eight), and their cousin Gracie (aged ten) are taken from their homes at Jigalong, situated in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, at the orders of the Protector of Aborigines, A.O. Neville, and sent to an institution at Moore River to be educated and trained as domestic servants. After a few days, Molly leads the other two girls in an escape. What ensues is an epic journey that tests the girls' will to survive and their hope of finding the rabbit-proof fence to guide them home.

Although they are pursued by the institution's Aboriginal tracker and the police, Molly knows enough about bush craft to help them hide their tracks. They head east in search of the world's longest fence - built to keep rabbits out - because Molly knows that this will lead them back to Jigalong. Over the course of nine weeks, the girls walk almost 2,400 kilometres before Gracie is captured attempting to catch a train. Molly and Daisy avoid capture but eventually collapse from exhaustion on the saltpans not far from Jigalong. When they wake, they see the spirit bird, an eagle, flying overhead. Its significance gives the girls the extra energy they need and they are able to make it back to their home.

Reading Australia

Reading Australia

This work has Reading Australia teaching resources.

Unit Suitable For

Unit Suitable For

AC: Year 9 (NSW Stage 5)


Aboriginality, bravery, coming of age, family, hardship, home, identity, importance of story, Power, resistance, Stolen Generations, survival

General Capabilities

Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding, Information and communication technology, Intercultural understanding, Literacy, Numeracy, Personal and social


  • This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory board.
  • Dedication: To all of my mother's and aunty's children and their descendants for inspiration, encouragement and determination.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

With glossary of Mardujara words. (Mardujara can also be spelt Mardudjara and Martujara)
Alternative title: Man man hui jia lu
Language: Chinese
    • Beijing,
      East Asia, South and East Asia, Asia,
      人民文学出版社 ,
      2002 .
      Extent: 142p.
      Description: illus., map
      • This edition arranged through Big Apple Tuttle-Mori Agency, Labuan, Malaysia.
      ISBN: 7020046932

Other Formats

  • Also sound recording, large print and electronic resource.

Works about this Work

Fever in the Archive Anna Haebich , single work criticism
— Appears in: Humanities Australia , no. 5 2014; (p. 23-35)

Anna Haebich investigates how the West Australian Department of Indigenous Affairs archives (1898-1972) have been utilised by Indigenous writers/researchers.

Reading Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence : Aboriginal Child Removal in 2017 Hannah McGlade , 2017 single work criticism
— Appears in: Westerly , vol. 62 no. 1 2017; (p. 185-195)

'Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (1996) is the story of three young Aboriginal girls, sisters Molly and Daisy and their cousin Gracie, taken from their parents by government authorities in 1931, to live far from their home at the harsh Moore River Native Settlement. Written originally by Doris Pilkington Garimara, it was adapted as a film under the title Rabbit-Proof Fence, directed by Philip Noyce (2002). The children were part of what is now known as the stolen generations and their story remains profoundly relevant to the lives of a great many Aboriginal children and their families. While there has been significant critical response to the text both itself and in the context of its adaptation, specifically in the realm of Australian Cultural Studies, it is pertinent and necessary to consider also the social context of the story. This is coming from the perspective of Aboriginal human rights and social justice.' (Introduction)

Narrating a Different (Hi)Story : The Affective Work of Counter-Discourse in Doris Pilkington's Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence Dorothee Klein , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Interventions : International Journal of Postcolonial Studies , vol. 18 no. 4 2016; (p. 588-604)
'This essay looks at historical, ethical and epistemological counter-discourses in Doris Pilkington's Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence and seeks to establish its ideological implications and political ramifications. This essay's premise is that Aboriginal life-narratives function on two levels, an informative and an affective one. To read these texts as alternative (hi)stories that counter or complement the dominant view on Australian history requires a reading position that is sensitive to their cultural particularities. At the same time, the issue of narrativity in Monika Fludernik's sense, i.e. the representation of experientiality, which distinguishes them from historiographic accounts of the past, needs to be addressed to explain the emotional responses they evoke. This essay therefore argues that a ‘bottom-up’ approach is best suited to capture this dual nature because it allows for an analysis of the ways in which readers are encouraged to identify with the Aboriginal perspective offered by these texts. Through close reading, this essay furthermore seeks to demonstrate how the narrative attempts to expose the ideological underpinnings of white Australian historiography and in particular the hypocrisy of governmental assimilationist policies of the twentieth century. These ideological implications are inextricably linked to the political ramifications Aboriginal life-narratives can have as important interventions, not only in writings about the past, but indirectly also in contemporary politics.' (Publication abstract)
Towards Resilience and Playfulness : The Negotiation of Indigenous Australian Identities in Twentieth-century Aboriginal Narratives Jan Alber , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: European Journal of English Studies , vol. 20 no. 3 2016; (p. 292-309)

'This article looks at the ideological ramifications of the narrative strategies that twentieth-century Aboriginal prose texts use to negotiate indigenous Australian identities. The central thesis is that after a period during which narratives by Aboriginal authors by necessity followed the form of the life histories to detail the actual experiences of oppression under the British settlers and past Australian governments, more recent indigenous Australian narratives are expressive of a regained confidence in playfully asserting Aboriginal identities. One can observe three developments in indigenous Australian narratives of the late twentieth century. First, the mode of fiction gradually increases its prevalence. Second, there has been a movement away from reports of what the colonisers did to indigenous Australians towards the foregrounding of more rebellious Aboriginal characters. Third, one can detect a significant increase in playfulness in narratives by indigenous Australian authors.' (Publication abstract)

BlackWords : Our Truths - Aboriginal Writers and the Stolen Generations Anita Heiss , 2015 single work criticism
— Appears in: The BlackWords Essays 2015; (p. 4)

In this essay Heiss demonstrates that stories, poetry, songs, plays and memoirs are 'living' evidence of truths otherwise untold or appropriated (Source: Introduction)

Untitled Bronwyn Fryar , 2002 single work review
— Appears in: Reading Time : The Journal of the Children's Book Council of Australia , August vol. 46 no. 3 2002; (p. 27)

— Review of Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence Doris Pilkington Garimara , 1996 single work biography
Untitled Ian McFarlane , 2002 single work review
— Appears in: Voice : A Journal of Comment and Review , June no. 2 2002; (p. 34-35)

— Review of Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence Doris Pilkington Garimara , 1996 single work biography
Lapses Mar the Retelling of Aboriginal Girls' Story Tonya Bolden , 1997 single work review
— Appears in: Antipodes , December vol. 11 no. 2 1997; (p. 119)

— Review of Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence Doris Pilkington Garimara , 1996 single work biography
Paperbacks Ian McFarlane , 2002 single work review
— Appears in: Canberra Sunday Times , 17 February 2002; (p. 51)

— Review of Machines for Feeling Mireille Juchau , 2001 single work novel ; Regret Ian Kennedy Williams , 2002 single work novel ; Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence Doris Pilkington Garimara , 1996 single work biography ; Finding Ullagundahi Island Fabienne Bayet , 2001 single work novel
Traversing the Personal Bruce Sims , 2002 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , March no. 239 2002; (p. 33-34)

— Review of Finding Ullagundahi Island Fabienne Bayet , 2001 single work novel ; Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence Doris Pilkington Garimara , 1996 single work biography ; Full Circle : From Mission to Community : A Family Story Edie Wright , 2001 single work autobiography
Telling the Nation Paul Gillen , 2002 single work criticism
— Appears in: Cultural Studies Review , November vol. 8 no. 2 2002; (p. 157-178)
'..identifying, seeking out and evaluating the distinguishing features of Australian culture or Australian people remains a popular activity. This essay discusses some recent books that do so, focusing on their underlying assumptions and motivations, and attempting to put them into historical perspective.' (p.157)
BookMarks 2003 single work column
— Appears in: The Courier-Mail , 26 April 2003; (p. 6)
'Echoes Across the Flats' : Storytelling and Phillip Noyce's Rabbit Proof Fence (2002) Monique Rooney , 2002 single work essay
— Appears in: Southerly , vol. 62 no. 3 2002; (p. 107-117)
The Battle Against Forgetting Sharon Verghis , 2002 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 11 April 2002; (p. 14)
Rabbit Proof Fence Heroine's Unfinished Business Simone Pitsis , 2004 single work column
— Appears in: The Australian , 16 January 2004; (p. 3)
Last amended 25 Jan 2018 09:52:02
  • Moore River, Guilderton - Gingin area, Southwest Western Australia, Western Australia,
  • Western Australia,
  • Jigalong, Pilbara area, North Western Australia, Western Australia,
  • Moore River Native Settlement (1918-1951), Western Australia,
  • Western Australia,
  • 1930s
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