Interactions between native peoples and immigrants have caused elements of their cultures and societies to entwine where one overpowers the other unevenly, changing both their individual and collective identities. The ambiguity in the peoples’ intentions and understandings creates tension that forces both people to reflect on their identities and act to shape and strengthen them. Both engage in a battle of defining their own and others’ identities and struggle to make them reality. Director Philllipe Noyce’s film The Rabbit-Proof Fence manifests the effects of interactions between indigenous Australians and English colonists, both attempting to control their societal and national identities through the care of their youth. Based on Doris Pilkington Garimara’s Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, the film uncovers forgotten memories through a simple but mysterious glimpse into Aborigine (person with mixed aboriginal and white descent) children’s experience of forced separation from their families. In the story, three Aborigine girls escape on foot together from a sickening settlement, hoping to return home, 1500 miles away, safely. The film simplistically, but realistically, depicts the Aborigines as victims of a hypocritical government changing their future claiming to help them, but ultimately to change its own standing. The Rabbit Proof Fence communicates the importance of native rights, freedom, justice, voice, family, and home.
The film helps to explain the ambiguity in the motives and actions of the government workers. The government workers and the missionaries both want to do good and help the Aborigines, but their actions are guided by naturally ingrained stereotypes and self interests. The whites view the natives and the Aborigines inferior to themselves because of their skin color. The notion of white superiority motivates them to act to prevent “the creation of a third unwanted race” by “the continuing infiltration of white blood [which] stamps out the black color” (Rabbit Proof Fence). This hierarchy by race facilely defines both identities as either one of the same or of the “Other” (Ramos).
The whites also treated the natives as children, in the sense that they are incapable of doing what the white people do. Like the whites defined the natives elsewhere, whites in Australia viewed their natives and their descendants as in “a permanent state of ignorance, in need of learning from civilized teachers,” (Ramos) leading to resocialization, evangelization, and deculturation. Sincerely believing that “the native[s] must be helped” and “protected against themselves (Rabbit Proof Fence),” the whites felt obligated to act as a guardian to the “wards of the state” (Ramos). However, because of this they over dictated the Aborigines’ lives.
The film focuses on the treatment at the settlements to illustrate the process of deculturation, assimilation and commodification. In the story, with the authorization of the Half Caste Act, Chief Protector of...