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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

RABBIT PROOF FENCE (article first published : 2002-09-6)

Rabbit Proof Fence was the film shown on the opening night of the Durban International Film Festival this week. An absorbing account of three Aboriginal girls, stolen from their mothers, sent 1600 kilometres away to a settlement in order to “remove” their Aboriginal identity and train them to be domestic workers. The girls run away, and, eluding their pursuers, reach home by following the “rabbit-proof fence”. It is stunning, impressive, and must be seen.

In the questions after the screening of the film someone, moved by the horror of what the Western Australian Government had tried to do as well as the courage and resourcefulness of the children, said “Surely people tried to resist? Surely Aborigines were moved to struggle against their oppression?”….the answer provided was that Aborigines are a non-violent people. This impressed us all, and we applauded.

But there was resistance.

From the moment Aborigines realised that they were being dispossessed, and their way of life was being threatened, there were many who attacked.

As the “settlers” or “invaders” moved across the country, and the borders of white settlement advanced, so there were attacks and raids and so there were punitive parties of white soldiers, police, bands of farmers who retaliated. Some contemporary writers called it a “line of blood”. In the end, the Aborigines were conquered: their numbers, their weapons, their need to hunt for their food, all contributing to their defeat. But they behaved as threatened people all over the world do: they tried to resist.

My source for this information is Why Weren’t We Told? A personal search for the truth about our history by Henry Reynolds. The book won the 1999 Australian Human Rights Award for the Arts. Published by Penguin, 1999. South Africans will find it a fascinating and illuminating read.

Lynn Maree, Durban, 2002




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