Australia’s “Stolen Generation”
mapped in Doris Pilkington’s “Rabbit-proof-fence”
illustration not visible in this excerpt
About the author: Doris Pilkington Garimara 
- She was born in 1937 as the daughter of Molly Craig and a stockman
- Her mother left her at Moore River Native Settlement at the age of three or four
- Doris didn’t see her mother again until she was 25
- She was originally trained as a nurse but then she studied journalism
- In 1990 she won the David Unaipon Award for her work caprice
- In 2006 she was awarded the A.M (Member of the Order of Australia)
Short summary of her book “Rabbit-proof-fence”
The book is based on the true story of three Aboriginal girls named Molly (14), her sister Daisy (8) and their cousin Gracie (10) who ran away from a Native Settlement in south Australia. They have been taken away from their mothers by the government because they are half-caste children. The cabinet wanted to integrate the half-caste infants into the white society. At Moore River Native Settlement they were told to forget their native language and traditions and taught them how to live like white people. One day Molly, Daisy and Gracie walked away from the settlement into the outback in hopes of finding the rabbit-proof-fence, which would lead them back home to Jigalog (north Australia). The girls reached indeed the fence and walked 1,500 miles back home to their families. In fact they moved for almost nine weeks. Police and the government looked everywhere for them, however, without success.
Facts about the “Rabbit-proof-fence” in Australia
- It’s the longest fence in the world: 2,000 miles, built from 1901 till 1907
- At first private contractors started with this project, then Australia’s Public Works Department finished it employing over 400 men to build the fence.
- Due to a rabbit plague, Australia’s Public Work Department set up the fence to protect agriculture from getting damaged or eaten by the animals who had been imported by English settlers.
- Effectively, the fence kept the following animals away: dingos, emus, foxes and goats.
History of the Aborigines 
The Aborigines (latin: “ab origine” = from the origin) are the native inhabitants of Australia and one of the eldest cultures of the world. The fifth continent is 21.5 as big as Germany but has only about 19 million residents living on it. Between 300,000 – 1 million Aborigines had existed before European settlement started, after 1788 the number decreased to 60,000 Aborigines in 1920. As a result of this 94 % of Australian’s current population are from European descent (majority British or Irish).
Definition of the “Stolen Generation” in Australia
“The Aboriginal people forcibly removed from their families as children between the 1900s and the 1960s, to be brought up by white foster families or in institutions.”
“In the Prime Minister’s apology, he said the total number of children wrongly removed between 1910 and 1970 was ‘up to 50,000’. This meant between 10 and 30 per cent of Aboriginal children”
European Settlement and its effects on Australia
1.1 Which motives did the English have for colonization?
The British regime was looking for new convict colonies. The first eleven ships of the so called “first fleet” arrived in 1877 including settlers, who wanted to start a better life, and convicts. Until 1868 more than 160,000 convicts had been shipped to the convict settlement of Port Jackson (Sydney).
1.2 Consequences for the indigenous people in Australia:
- The British denied the Aborigines any right of land
- They were driven out and hunted (indigenous people should die out)
- Many natives died because of brought diseases (smallpox, masers, Influenza)
- Imported animals muddied waterholes so the Aborigines couldn’t use it anymore
- Exploitation for various kinds of slave labour
- Depressions spread because they felt that their environment gets destroyed
- Mission camps were set up aimed “to stop the breakdown of cultures” including reservations where taken Aborigines should learn the white people’s lifestyle and they got state accommodation
-The number of indigenous inhabitants in 2006 was only 2,5 % of the total population.
2. Removal of Aboriginal children
Altogether, there were 88 mission camps in Australia, of which 22 were situated in Western Australia. Approximately 100,000 children got violently separated from their parents between 1910 and 1970 according to the “Bringing Them Home” report.
2.1 Reasons for the removal
Mr. A.O. Neville, Native Administrator of Western Australia, was worried about the fact that the Aboriginal race didn’t die out against expectations. The number of full-blood Aborigines decreased but there was a new problem: More and more white men had sex with black women. One reason was the lack of white women. Consequently the indigenous women give birth to so called “half-caste children”. There had been fears that the continent would be flooded with a new third, mixed, dark-coloured race. His solution:
- A rigorous marriage control system aimed to bred out the black colour
- Separating the half-caste children from the black communities to educate them
- In 1905 (Western Australia) the law “Aborigines Act” was published, which gave the government legal guardianship over the children to the age of 16 years and forced the fathers of the half-castes to pay for their children’s mission fees.
- In 1918 the Australian government enacted legislation which made it illegal for a white man to live with an Aboriginal woman.
- Half-castes like Molly, Gracie and Daisy were not accepted by the full-blood society.
2.2 Living conditions of the abducted children
In Western Australia there was one mission camp named “Moore River Native Settlement” for children with a relatively dark skin as also mentioned in Doris Pilkington’s book. In this multi-purpose institution there were establishments for all age groups such as a chapel and a playschool. But the small village was isolated by being miles away from the next settlement.
- “Schooling was rudimentary in overcrowded classrooms with unqualified teachers in front.”
- They had to sleep in overcrowded dormitories without pillows.
- Ex-inmates describe the institutions as a place “with ‘no love or care’” with fix rituals.
- Many infants had to endure castigation, starvation or were locked up for failures.
- Some children were also released to be adopted by white families. Unfortunately, the missions didn’t always check on the foster families properly. Dysfunctional families were allowed to adopt them, even though they just welcomed the funding that was connected to the arrangement.
2.3 Far-reaching consequences for these infants
Of course these negative examples weren’t fact in everyday life at all institutions, but unfortunately there were these sad causes, too:
- For many children being transported to a mission was a very traumatic experience. Either the police lured them by telling them they’re going on a holiday or picnic while their parents were out working or they kidnapped them violently.
- A great number of them wouldn’t see their families again since they were granted only a little or no contact to their relatives. So they lost their childhood and forgot about their Aboriginal culture.
- Children were afraid of the whites and the physical punishment and torture because Aboriginal parents never slapped their children. Some of them became bed wetters or became victims of sexual abuse.
- As the government assumed the half-castes to be less intelligent, they trained them to work as domestic servants or station hands.
- In fact they weren’t properly prepared for the outer world since they had no direct contact with it.
- They had to stay in the mission until they had reached the age of 21.
2.4 The current situation of stolen kids / now adults
Some of them cannot process the problems and began drinking alcohol or commit suicide.
“Estimates suggest that, in some years, the suicide rate for Indigenous people in specific communities is as much as 40% higher than for the Australian population as a whole. Over the past 30 years Indigenous suicide has increased.” 
Since they had no role model many adults have problems to show love to their own children.
Many are still trying to find family members and racism against the natives is still present for example in the world of employment.
native settlement = Eingeborenensiedlung foster families = Pflegefamilien
half-caste children = Mischlingskinder convicts = Strafgefangene, Verurteilte
plague = Plage, Seuche state accommodation = staatl. Versorgung / Unterbringung
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- Quote paper
- Sandra Bosnic (Author), 2012, Australia's Stolen Generation mapped in Doris Pilkington's "rabbit proof fence", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/191502