Barriers of the continental kind – Rabbit Proof Fence

Rabbit Proof Fence is the true story of three girls, half-white and half aborigine, and referred to as half-castes, who are snatched from their mother under orders from the Western State in Australia and put into an internment camp. The orders come from A.O.Neville (played by Kenneth Branagh), who is the appointed “protector” of the aborigines, and takes his charge as seriously as most white men took their burden in the early 1900s! The goal is to keep the aboriginal race “pure”, and to breed the half-castes with whites until all traces of the native are bred out. The children are kept in Gulags and trained to be domestic help. Molly, the oldest, is about 12 and her sister Daisy and cousin Grace are younger as they are snatched away from the arms of their mother. The girls are literally caged birds as they are transported over 1200 miles to the camp where their training will begin. Within a couple of days Molly figures out that they cannot stay there and they pick a stormy day to run away, counting on the rain to hide their tracks. Tracking them is Moodoo (David Gulpilil) but he loses the tracks as the girls cleverly take to a river and walk through the water.

Just as a chasm separates the ruling whites from the aborigines, a rabbit proof fence separates two halves of the continent – keeping rabbits and wilderness on one side and protecting farmland on the other side of the fence. The girls plan to walk the 1200 miles along the fence back home. Along the way Mr. Neville is sending tracker and trooper after them, and a cat and mouse game plays out. The indomitable will and courage of children triumphs over misguided, self-serving immoral xenophobia. The story is written by Molly’s daughter, and in the end we see some real footage of Molly and her sister as they are today.

See it for the wonderful vistas of the parched baked outback, and for the slice of the shameful history of a vast continent. Director Phillip Noyce deserves full credit for getting such wonderful performances out of three children – Everlyn Sampi plays the responsible, unbeatable and unsinkable Molly, with Tianna Sansbury as Daisy and Laura Monaghan as Gracie. Kenneth Branagh is chilling as the fanatic and driven Mr. Neville.


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