I believe that in order for anyone traveling to Australia to gain a full understanding of this country’s history and the experiences of its Indigenous people, they should become familiar with a story like ‘Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence.’
The story takes place in the 1930s and follows three mixed Aboriginal girls that face the very common fate of being forcibly removed from their homes as a result of government policy. The book is based on a true story, and because of this, the trauma that the characters go through becomes much harder to accept as a reader. I had learned about the Stolen Generation prior, however the account in “Rabbit-Proof Fence’ was far more personal and heartbreaking than anything I had read before
As an outsider visiting Australia, from my perspective, it seems that European settlers and the culture they brought in 1788 succeeded in overtaking any aboriginal cultural influences from the country’s general identity. Over the years the erasure of Aboriginal presence and influence has not been natural occurrence as the policies implemented by European Australians when they first settled on this land were put in place to make sure any inhabitant who wasn’t completely assimilated was oppressed.
The ‘Stolen Generation’ were the victims of forced removal from their families under a state-sanctioned policy. This policy, intact from around 1910-1970, was a widespread example of how white Australians have worked to erase and replace the identities of the country’s Indigenous people. In addition to removing children from their homes, many other procedure were put in place in order to whiten Australia and transform the country’s identity into the westernized one it holds today (i.e. the White Australia policy and 20th century protectionism) However while forcibly assimilating mixed children was one of many government sanctioned tactics that helped Australia build its current image, it was definitely the policy that carried the most trauma. The transgenerational effects of these removals are still apparent in the country’s culture today.
Disparities in wealth, education, and the criminal justice system between non-Aboriginals and Aboriginal people can all be tied back to the effects of the Stolen Generation. When an entire population is removed it takes a large toll on their communities, and in order for someone to gain a full understanding of Australia’s roots, the history of the Stolen Generation is something they must understand. I wish that Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence was a more common required reading in the US and other countries, simply because the idea of who makes up Australia is so warped there. Indigenous people and the members of the Aboriginal community deserve to have the history of their injustices spread as widely as any other marginalized group, and I feel that hasn’t been done. Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence is a good example of a text that would help a reader gain a raw understanding of what the Stolen Generation was, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to learn an honest version of Australia’s history.