Saturday, December 3, 2011

Long way home

Many years ago, the Australian government had a policy of trying to "assimilate" - some say it was really persecution of - the native population. Much like the U.S. did to their Native American population. It was common to take young aboriginal children from their households and put them in boarding schools many miles away and make them live under the white culture. They must speak English and not their native tongue in public, dress like white people, learn white religions. I saw a movie about this practice in Australia which took place (the movie) in the 1930s.

The practice of forced reeducation of culture stopped in the U.S. in the early 1960s, I think. I don't know when it stopped in Australia. Anyway, the movie I saw was about three (I think) little girls, sisters, who had been taken from their aboriginal home and family and placed in a "mission" boarding school 1500 miles across the continent. The movie is mainly about how the girls escaped and made their way back home. If I remember right, it took years to get home, across the 1500 miles. Maybe not years, but a long time.

They remembered the rabbit-proof fence that had run by their home. They found it near the mission where they were being kept and just followed the fence home. A touching story.


  1. A true story too. Two of them are still alive. One was recaptured, she died a while back, aged 86, I think.

    I'd recomment this essay:

    Back in the early nineties, a friend of mine Gaynor, decided to visit Australia and explore. She bought a Land-Rover, a stage-one V8 station wagon, had it expedition-prepared, with long range fuel and water tanks, axle-and diff- guards, all the toys, and shipped it out to australia. Every month or so she'd send a long letter with drawings and photographs, stories of her travels and adventures. Damn, I was so jealous.
    She wrote of following the rabbit-proof-fence for days in dust storms, and knowing that she'd find a water supply along there.
    I wish I still had the letters.

    Ah well. Wonder what she's doing these days?

  2. I read the essay you recommended about the fence. The story of the construction of the fence, and the ultimate futility of it, at least for rabbits, is very interesting. So is the story of your friend.



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