In Australia, from 1883 (when the Aborigines Protection Board was established) and, unbelievably, right up to 1969 (when the Aborigines Welfare Board was abolished) an estimated 1 in 10 of all Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families in an effort to ‘civilize’ them by assimilation into European society and culture. As most Australians now know, successive Government authorities assumed legal guardianship of all Indigenous children and removed approximately 100,000 part-Aboriginal children from their parents and placed them with white Australian families, or in institutional care.
Often they were abused, or used as domestic servants, or simply placed in homes against their will. The Stolen Generation destroyed numerous Aborigines’ lives. The damage done to them has not been redeemed, after many years. The film, Rabbit Proof Fence communicates and connects deeply with the viewers’ knowledge, response and feelings deeply towards the injustice of the Stolen Generation. Rabbit Proof Fence, sympathises the viewer with the Aborigines, sharing the atmosphere of hopeless, powerlessness and loss, bringing out its significance in its message.Order now
The power of sympathy, kinship, bonds and injustice were used throughout the film to bias the viewers. Rabbit Proof Fence focuses on many of these techniques repeatedly to highlight this, including suitable background music, camera angles, symbolic, realism and audio codes. The most dramatic scene which biases most viewers was the scene when Constable Riggs seized 3 innocent half-caste girls off their unwilling relatives under the permission of a legal document. Already, this sort of action carried out in this part screams out ‘injustice’ to the audiences’ response.
However, there were many more techniques in this scene which captures the audience’s sympathy and encourage hope for the half-caste girls to escape and arrive back into the arms of true freedom and happiness, and the security of their family. The film is set in Australia in the 1930s, and begins in a remote town of Jingalong where 3 children, sisters Molly Craig and Daisy Kadibil, lived contented and satisfactorily with their mother, grandmother and cousin Gracie Fields.
The town lies along the northern part of Australia’s rabbit proof fence, which runs on for thousands of miles. After A. O. Neville, the chief protector of Aborigines who “had permission to remove any half-caste children in WA”, signs an order to re-locate the 3 half-caste girls to the re-education camp, the children are forcibly taken from their families. This scene had used many techniques to capture the attention and sympathy from the audiences.
A surprisingly quiet and peaceful long shot over the ‘Jingalong Depot’ where Molly and her relatives were calm, socializing and buying things turned into an intense, nail-biting, frantic and shaky camera scene which provided a sense of realism when the powerless and frail family tried to escape the powerful hands of Constable Riggs. The soundtrack of the shouting and screaming of the Molly’s family and the sound of Constable Riggs’ car became dominant to show that it was a ‘battle’ between injustice and freedom.
A close up was shown inside Constable Riggs’ car, and a panning as Molly’s family ran, showing the car gaining them, which is a sign of the family’s vulnerability and no hope of escaping. An extreme close-up was focused on Constable Riggs’ face to show determination, grim, and even anxious, maybe even to get this over with. As Constable Riggs’ car finally caught up with Molly’s family, Maude, Molly’s mother, held protectively over her children, a high angle camera shot was established to show the weak, vulnerability and a lack of protection Maude had over the children.
A low angle shot was also established on Constable Riggs, which determines he has more power, authority and definitely more stamina than Maude and the family. A medium shot was shown as Constable Riggs holds the legal document above him, an act of authority, and waving the piece of paper at Maude, claiming that it was the law and that he had the rights and permission to remove the children. The document is also symbolic code, and symbolizes injustice and empower over all Aborigines.
An extreme close up focuses briefly on Constable Riggs’ face where he took a deep breath before seizing the traumatized Gracie, which is a sign that he, is perhaps anxious and didn’t really want to remove these children from their families and convincing himself that he was only doing his job. Riggs seemed ‘detached’ as he hastily removed the children from Maude, and a medium shot was focused to show how he roughly handled the children.
Discrimination and disrespect against Aborigines were clearly shown when Constable Riggs rudely took the stick from Molly’s grandmother, her feeble grandmother’s only weapon and disrespected an elder, and stated rudely “Nothing you could do here, old girl. ”. Disrespect towards white elders doesn’t normally occur in a white’s society. As the children were helplessly banging on the windows of the car, which seemed like a barrier between themselves and their family and the music intensifies, and this captures an audience’s sympathy and creates a negative image towards A.
O. Neville and Constable Riggs who are actually good people in a bad position in the film. A. O. Neville and Constable Riggs are only believing they are doing the right thing by removing half-caste children from their Aboriginal families because in A. O. Neville’s theory, Aborigines endanger themselves and their half-caste children so their children must be removed from their family and full-blooded Aborigines must be bred out of existence to avoid an ‘unwanted’ 3rd race.
Rabbit Proof Fence expresses many of the values and attitudes regarding respect and dignity towards the Indigenous, and had a strong and clear message about commonality. Everyone is the same when it comes to love and in the dependence of parents and children. Although A. O. Neville only wanted to ‘help’ advance a half-caste status to a white’s status, he did not know how badly those few minutes impacted on the Aboriginal parent’s lives.
Aborigines are no worse than white parents as long as their children are healthy and happy and even when the children are taken from their parents to the Moore River Camp and trained to be servants for the whites, they cannot experience the full benefits until they are fully white. The whites were selfish and wanted to take advantages from Aborigines as their slaves. For a century, resisted and suffered the invasion of their lands by white settlers.