Sunday, June 08, 2008

Stolen Generations

Thank goodness for NetFlix. Without it I would certainly never have the opportunity to see some wonderful films that unfortunately passed me by when they were originally released in the theaters.

This weekend I watched “Rabbit-Proof Fence,” from 2002.

I chose this filmed from reading the NetFlix synopsis that says it is based on true events about the Australian aboriginal integration program of the 1930s, referred to today as the stolen generations, and a vague memory of it receiving critical acclaim.

The film opens with the following title cards:

Western Australia 1931

For 100 years the Aboriginal Peoples have resisted the invasion of their lands by white settlers.

Now, a special law, the Aborigines Act, controls their lives in every detail.

Mr. A. O. Neville, the Chief Protector of Aborigines, is the legal guardian of every Aborigine in the State of Western Australia.

He has the power "to remove any half-caste child" from their family, from anywhere within the state.

What follows is the true story of half-caste Molly Craig (beautifully played by Everlyn Sampi; herself a daughter of a half-caste) who’s forcibly taken from her family, along with her younger sister and cousin, and brought to a government camp where children were “mainstreamed” and taught to be servants. The intent of the program is for the “half-castes,” the part white/part aboriginal children, to eventually eliminate the “aboriginal blood” in future generations and to look and act more white.

Molly and her sister and cousin escape and walk the 1,500 miles through the Australian outback to their home and family. It’s an astounding story of strength, determination, and cultural identity. Rabbit-Proof fence refers to the fence built by the government to keep rabbits from invading settlements. It is this fence that Molly used to guide her way back home.

The final scene of the film is the real life Molly Craig, now an elderly woman, walking with a walking stick. It’s a powerful image.

“Rabbit-Proof Fence” is based on the book “Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence” by Doris Pilkington, the daughter of Molly Craig.

The egregious behavior of the Australian government is similar to that of the American government who forced Native Americans to “mainstream” into white culture. The scars of these programs still linger today, and will continue for a long time to come.

Stolen generations indeed.

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