For this post, I promise with my whole heart NOT to fake an Australian accent.
Today’s post will feature Doris Pilkington and her famous book, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence. Pilkington, also known by her native Aboriginal name Nugi Garimara, based this book on the real-life story of her mother and two aunts who walked 1000 miles as young children across remote Western Australia to be reunited with their family.
For realz, they walked 1000 miles. 1600 kilometers. The oldest kid was 14.
In case you’re not aware of the European settlers’ treatment of the Aboriginal Australians, this book would be a decent place to start. During the 1930s in Australia, it was a common practice to forcibly remove Aboriginal children from their families and send them to boarding schools, which doubled as brainwashing institutions where these children were taught to reject their indigenous culture and embrace white culture. This meant they were given new names, forbidden to speak their native languages, and were often told that their parents were dead or had abandoned them. These children have come to be known as ‘the Stolen Generation‘.
In addition, these “schools” offered very little real education, as these children were expected to grow up to perform manual and domestic labor. And there was very little food, and what food there was was often crappy (think Oliver Twist). Oh, and they were often abused.
So, OBVIOUSLY kids wanted to escape these places. If you were caught, you were severely punished – the book describes one boy’s failed attempt earning him a beating and solitary confinement with only bread and water. But even if you did manage to escape, it was literally a 1000 mile journey back home for most of these kids. That’s a only slightly less than the distance from New York City to Kansas City. In the Australian Outback. But these three sisters were determined to journey back home to their family, so they planned a bold escape, avoiding towns and following the “rabbit-proof fence” towards home.
The rabbit-proof fence, by the way, was this super long fence that the Australian government had put up in an attempt to keep rabbits and other “pests” out of fields and towns. It had become a sort of symbol of civilization. Beyond the rabbit-proof fence was the harshest of the Australian desert – as well as most of the free Aboriginal population. The girls’ home was also beyond this fence.
Once again, NO SPOILERS, so I’ll have to stop there. Guys, this book is totally worth your time. It’s super thin – 136 pages with the references in the back. It has also been made into a movie, Rabbit-Proof Fence, which I haven’t seen but would like to.
Have you ever read anything from Australia? I’d love to hear from you!