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Warning: This resource may contain references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may have passed away.

9 — What was there to lose?

In this sequence students read Chapters 1 to 3 of Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence. These three chapters, ‘The first military post’, ‘The Swan River Colony’ and ‘The decline of Aboriginal society’, provide additional background information for the reader about early European settlement in Western Australia. 

Painting of sailing ships with black swans, at the entrance to the Swan River

Above: Ships, with black swans, at the entrance to the Swan River, Western Australia, coloured engraving, derived from an earlier drawing (now lost) from the de Vlamingh expeditions of 1696–97. No copyright

Activity 1: Completing the worksheet

Working in groups, the students use a variety of comprehension strategies to read one of the chapters. Either all students within a group read the entire chapter or sub-groups of pairs may each read a set number of paragraphs of the text and report to the larger group. If few copies of the book are available, the activity could be spread over a number of days, with students taking turns to use the books.  ACELY1713

Students use the process modelled in Sequence 8 to read the chapter or extract and complete the Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence worksheet. Using the information from the worksheet, they each write a brief summary of the chapter and mark place names on their maps. The group evaluates their own and each other’s summaries and selects one to be presented to the whole group.  ACELY1713ACELY1715

Students research the people and events described in each chapter and add them to the timeline. These three chapters are based on factual accounts of the time but some of the characters are fictional. By researching the people and events in each chapter, with teacher help, students will be able to sort out what is factual and what is not.  ACHASSK135

Activity 2: Presenting summaries of information to the class

Groups present their summaries to the class. They add pertinent information to the class map and display their worksheets. Each group will place the events dealt with in their chapter on the class timeline.

Discuss any unfamiliar words and phrases listed by each group. Students then work together to clarify the meaning. If they are unable to work out the meaning from the context or from background knowledge, they may use dictionaries or search online. Help the students to use the context to work out the meaning of Mardujara words and use the glossary in the book to confirm them. Students should record Mardujara words and their English meanings. These could be added to a section about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in the museum.  ACELA1515

Use the information about the Noongar People from the Noongar Culture website, and the Wikipedia entry for Noongar people to read about the Nyungar people referred to in the book.

Note: Explain to the students that there may be information about language, history, culture and plants that will be of use to them when reading Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, though you should advise caution when using Wikipedia links as information sources for Indigenous groups. For students in the Noongar local area, it would be preferable to use local knowledge about language, history, culture and plants, rather than Wikipedia.

Activity 3: Creating a comic strip

Students select a descriptive passage from the chapter they have just read and create a comic strip or animation using the media of their choice. They will need to consider the historical accuracy of their presentation and use language that suits both the time and the situation. These will form part of the display in the museum.  ACHASSI133