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Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

“Powerful” was a word many of us used to describe this 2002 Australian film and the touching shorts. We were delighted to see some children attending and enjoying the film.

Rabbit-Proof Fence told the real-life story of three Aboriginal girls who found their long way home, after being forcibly removed as part of the government’s programme of assimilation of ‘half-caste’ indigenous children into white society. The fence they followed, aimed to keep out rabbit pests from the agricultural side, served as a strong metaphor for the way Aboriginal children were treated from 1910 - 1970. There were fine performances from the girls in the main roles, especially Everlyn Sampi as Molly.

We agreed that while Australians had this sad era in their history, there were many other cultures which had also dominated minorities. This led to the same ‘cultural blindness’ shown in the film by AO Neville, the official Protector of Western Australia Aborigines. The Australian story was new to us and that showed how selective classroom history can be.

The 1,500 mile journey taken by the children kept our interest. Each meeting they had with people while they were on the run was tense. Would they be reported and taken back to the children’s home?

We thought about the look of the film. The desaturated colours as the children trekked for miles contrasted with the vividness when they finally returned home. Camera angles used for scenes with AO Neville, played by Kenneth Branagh, were chosen to unsettle the viewer. Peter Gabriel’s world music was an excellent background to the film.

We finally shared our thoughts about the National Sorry Day and the impact it seemed to have on the whole population, as well as the traumatised Aboriginal people.

Our discussion leader ended by recommending some cheap mince pies made by a posh supermarket. Maybe we should have sponsored adverts during our Zoom discussions.

Anne Goldstein

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