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The beginning of the 20th century in England was an exciting era full of innovations, inventions and of course colonization. In Australia the spirit of progress and achievement was tarnished by a massive problem, and as ridiculous as it might sound, the problem was rabbits, millions of them. They arrived in Australia with the first fleet in 1788 and became a widespread pest after a few wild rabbits were released for hunting by an English farmer. The rabbits quickly spread through the newly cleared farmland and began to migrate across Australia reproducing at a high rate. Farmers used poison and traps in an effort to exert some control and bounties were offered to professional hunters. But despite all efforts the rabbits continue to spread and were costing the nation millions of dollars in damage to crops and pastures. In 1901 the Royal Commission addressed the rabbit question, they decided that a fence should be constructed right across the country to divide the pastoral land form the dry bushes. The fence traversing the vast dusty plains of Western Australia from the Southern Ocean to 80 mile beach north of Port Hedland, measured more than 1800 kilometers. It was the longest fence in the world and cut Australia into two pieces. At times hundreds of men and horses were engaging at building the fence. The government also employed boundary riders to maintain the fence, they were working in pairs, patrolling up and down a stretch of more than 200km, repairing sections of the fence damaged by fire, flood or animals. The fence workers and the boundary riders formed relationships with Aboriginal women. Children from these relations were called half-castes. The government believing it was acting in the best interests of these children, unwisely decided to remove them, forcibly if necessary, from their Aboriginal families and culture and sent them to state-run institutions to be raised and educated as Europeans and to eradicate their identity and origin. This forced removal caused great trauma and distress to the families. These children became known as the Stolen Generation. By 1927, following wartime shortages in labor supplies the fence was in disrepair. In 1930 there were calls for it to be torn down, it was then, that this broken fence, symbol of a society that felt its scientific and industrial progress can bring order and control to the wilderness of nature, became the scene for an amazing act of defiance and hope and one of the longest walks in the history of the outback.
The film tells a story of a three young girls of a half-cast origin, Molly, Daisy and Gracie, which were living in Jigalong. Jigalong was established as a maintenance and ration store for workmen working on the rabbit-proof fence. It also distributed food rations, clothing, tobacco and blankets for the indigenous people. In 1917 Molly Crain was born here, her mother of indigenous origin and her father an Englishman. In 1931 the government decided to forcibly remove her, as many others, and take her to one of the camps that were supposed to give her better future- The Moore River settlement. This settlement was under the control of Mr. Neville, the West Australian protector of Aborigines, who had the power to order any child of mixed origin to be taken from their home against their will, from anywhere within the state. Molly however, was one of the kids that planed on escaping and decided that she’s not staying at the settlement and was dead set on going home, and so her and her sister Daisy and cousin Gracie set out on an epic 1600 km long journey back to Jigalong. The rabbit proof fence serving them as navigation. The girls had barely enough to eat and grew very thin and weak, despite the fact that some of the farmers tried to help them, they almost died along the road. Nonetheless the great longing for home and the hope in their hearts drove them on.
Story like this is not uncommon in the history of colonization; I do not mean particularly story of such a journey but story of Europeans trying to persuade their way of life on a completely different set of people from distinct country. It happened all the time, in every colony of an advanced modern society, we somehow feel this urge to improve and mend something that is not broken. We think that our way of living is the only right way, that we are the ones who are obliged to help these people to become like us. And many of us believe that we are indeed helping them, when in the reality we are actually destroying what was left of them, their culture and their heritage. No matter how noble our intentions might be, we have to take into notice all the possible aftermaths and realize that we are actually hurting these people. I think Europeans often viewed themselves as saviors of someone that did not want to be saved. I fully understand the idea of educating these people and giving them chances in their lives they would not have had in the first place. I even view this as the right thing to do somehow. However, the way of applying this idea was completely wrong, and giving the chances to the kids was only a coverage for the fact, that we wanted them to lose their origin, to became “white”. To became like us. That’s what I view as wrong. And it is happening still. One day even the most hidden last native tribe of its kind will disappear in favor of globalization and modernization. It is sad from the point of cultural variety, but it is inevitable.
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