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

10 — Taken away

The book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (1996) was made into the film Rabbit-Proof Fence, directed by Phillip Noyce, in 2002. In this sequence, Chapters 4 to 7 of Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence will be read by or to the students. This will depend on the ability of the students and the availability of copies of the text. Students may view clips from the film and compare these with passages from the book (depending on classification and permissions). Students will map the journey on their own maps and take notes. A class map of the journey will be updated daily and events will be added to the class timeline as the story unfolds. The timeline and map will become a part of the museum.

Black and white photo of a small house (the hospital), pepper trees and the bare surrounding ground on a hot day. The nurses are in formal uniforms. On the verandas children are on beds with white sheets.

Above: Moore River Native Settlement Hospital, c. 1920, public domain, no copyright

Activity 1: Criteria for creating a timeline

Throughout the reading of these chapters, the students will annotate a timeline that will be attached to the main timeline for the museum: a timeline within a timeline. Annotations to both the timeline and the map may be drafted during reading then edited in small groups using Criteria for annotations to timeline before adding to the timeline.  ACELY1714ACELY1715ACELT1613

Activity 2: Focusing on Chapter 4: ‘From the deserts they came’

Chapter 4 describes the period of time from 1900 to about 1910 when contact between white Australians and the Mardu people of the western desert became more frequent. Because wells were being constructed along the Canning Stock Route, a number of conflicts occurred. In 1907 the rabbit-proof fence was finished and Jigalong was established as a maintenance depot. Many of the Mardu had had no personal contact with Europeans at that time. Maude’s parents and grandparents are introduced at the end of the chapter and there is a brief description of Maude as a young child.

Refer to the Indigenous language map to locate the general area of language groups. Research information about the Mardu people (sometimes referred to as Martu) of Western Australia.  ACELA1515ACHASSI123

Read the section from the text about the first encounter of one group of desert people with a man on horseback. Starting with ‘the strange thing’, list the other pronouns and noun groups that represent the man on horseback. Discuss the way these cohesive links are used by the author not only to describe the ‘creature’ but the emotions of the people watching it.  ACELA1520

Activity 3: Focusing on Chapter 5: ‘Jigalong 1907–1931’

In this chapter Molly is born to Maude and Thomas Craig, an Englishman employed as an inspector of the rabbit-proof fence. Molly and her cousins, Daisy and Gracie, are the first half-caste children in Jigalong and are teased by the other children for their fair skin. The Aborigines Protection Board managed their removal and they became a part of The Stolen Generations (.pdf 599 kB).

Have the students read the section about kinship and skin groups in the Wikipedia entry for Martu (Mardu) people, after reading the part in the chapter where Maude’s relatives are concerned about the identity of Molly’s father. Why were the relatives relieved? Note: Advise caution when using Wikipedia links as information sources for Indigenous groups.  ACELY1708

Ask the students to describe in one paragraph the traditional lifestyle of the Mardu people. What were the benefits to the Mardu of a lifestyle in which they travelled from place to place within their country? What were the disadvantages? What did Molly and her cousins lose when they were taken away?

Show the students the film clip The Stealing of Children – Rabbit-Proof Fence and re-read the part of Chapter 5 in which the children are taken away from Maude. Compare the film and the book versions of this event and describe the differences. Read the teacher notes on the Australian Screen website for more information.  ACELY1708

Activity 4: Focusing on Chapter 6: ‘The journey south’

In this chapter the girls are taken from Jigalong and sent to Port Hedland on the coast by car and then train. From Port Hedland they travelled by ship to Fremantle, by ambulance to Perth and by car to the Moore River Native Settlement. Students plot the journey on their maps and sketch a part of each section. The sketch should include the girls and other significant people, labelled with their names, and should have a brief caption naming the section of the journey and describing how the girls would have been feeling.  ACELY1713

Note the way primary source material has been included in the chapter. Have the students discuss the author’s reason for including this.  ACHASSI123

Activity 5: Focusing on Chapter 7: ‘The Moore River Native Settlement, 1931’

In this chapter the girls’ time at the Moore River Native Settlement is described. Have the students research the Moore River Native Settlement. They should compare what they read in source materials with the description of events in the chapter.  ACHASSI123

Watch Rabbit-Proof Fence Clip 2. This scene is not from the book but is used to show the character of A.O. Neville, the Commissioner for Native Affairs. Discuss why this has been added to the film. Have the students research A.O. Neville and compare this information about him with the way he is portrayed in the film.  ACELY1708ACHASSI123

Make a class poster that juxtaposes the conditions in boarding schools for the ‘sons and daughters of the landed gentry’ of the time with the conditions at the Moore River Native Settlement. Use images and words to demonstrate the inequality. The poster may be in paper or digital form. Add the poster to the class museum.  ACELY1714ACHASSI133

Activity 6: Completing the timeline 

The students now edit and complete the annotations for the timeline. As a class, they can select one or two annotations for each chapter to be added to the class timeline.  ACHASSI125

The students may now each be given a copy of the instructions for Assessment task 2 and given opportunities to discuss the task. The assessment task is due in the week before the opening of the museum. A due date is set for the task and the students are reminded that their peers will contribute to the marking of the task.

Students are encouraged to communicate with the teacher about their progress. Depending on the previous experiences and ability of individual students, conferences can be used to provide additional support.