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Two obituaries for Molly Craig (Kelly), a Wikipedia about Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, and an obituary for Doris Pilkington Garimara (Molly's daughter)

Author: Associated Press, Christine Olsen, Wikipedia, Elaine Woo

Molly Kelly, 87, Australian Aborigine Who Walked 1,000 Miles to Her Home

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS January 16, 2004

Molly Kelly, whose childhood trek across 1,000 miles of the Australian desert to return to her Aboriginal mother inspired the 2002 movie ''Rabbit-Proof Fence,'' died on Tuesday at her home in Jigalong in Western Australia, her family said. She was thought to be 87.

Ms. Kelly was about 13 when she, her little sister and a cousin made the nine-week journey with little food or water. When her story came out decades later, she became a symbol of the resilience of Aborigines in the face of mistreatment by Australia's European settlers.

In 1931, Ms. Kelly was taken from her mother and sent to a government institution to be trained as a domestic servant along with her sister and cousin.

Thousands of such forced separations created what are now known as Australia's ''stolen generations.'' The policy aimed at assimilating Aborigines into mainstream society began in 1905 and continued until 1971.

The three girls immediately fled the institution. Ms. Kelly decided that since Jigalong was on a rabbit-proof fence -- intended to stop the spread of imported rabbits -- they could follow it north to their home.

They crossed a flooded river, sand dunes, a desert and a salt lake. They slept in hollowed-out rabbit burrows and ate sweet potatoes and wild bananas. Nine weeks after they began, they made it home.

''She was a person that was utterly willful, who decided she would not be dictated to, took on the whole state apparatus and managed to win,'' said Christine Olsen, the screenwriter of the film.

Ms. Kelly's daughter, Doris Pilkington Garimara, learned of the story and wrote it down only after she was reunited with her mother more than 20 years after she also was taken away by authorities.

While many members of the ''stolen generations'' have reunited with their families, some will never know their real relatives. The Australian government has not formally apologized for the policy.

Philip Noyce, the film's director, plans to return to Jigalong to pay his respects, The Australian Associated Press reported Thursday.

For Molly, the fence was a lifeline

January 20, 2004

Home was the Jigalong country ... Molly Kelly, right, with her daughter Doris Pilkington, centre, and sister Daisy Kadibil, who endured the long trek along the fence with her. Photo: Dione Davidson

"There is only one success - to be able to live your life in your own way." - Christopher Morley

Molly Kelly, the real-life heroine of the film Rabbit-Proof Fence, has died peacefully at home in her country, Jigalong, 1400 kilometres north-east of Perth in Western Australia. She was 86.

Molly Craig was the daughter of Maude, a Mardu woman, and Thomas Craig, a fence inspector on the rabbit-proof fence. She grew up in the traditional desert community based around the Jigalong fence depot. Her life as a child was a semi-nomadic one, the family spending long periods away from the depot. Her first language was Martuwangka.

In 1931 the chief protector of Aborigines in Western Australia, A.O. Neville, received a report of "three half-caste girls living in a blacks' camp". The girls were Molly, 14, her younger cousin, Gracie, 10, and sister, Daisy, 8. Neville had set up the system whereby half-caste children were taken from their families and sent to institutions to be trained as domestics and farm labourers. He dithered over taking Molly. She was too old. He liked to take children under the age of 12, before they were too "formed". In the end he ordered her removal, a decision he was to live to regret. The girls were taken from their families and sent south to Moore River native settlement, 1300 kilometres away.

The Moore River settlement, in the Great Depression year of 1931, was at its most miserable. However, it was not the filthy conditions, the terrible food or the pervading air of neglect about the place which disturbed Molly. It was the country. This land had white sandy soil compared with the red soil of Jigalong and Molly did not know the trees. She knew she did not belong there. "I wanted to go home - to Mother" were her words 70 years later. After just one night in the settlement Molly determined that she and Gracie and Daisy would run away and walk home. A simple, straightforward enough idea. One foot in front of the other.

It was not an idea that appealed to Daisy and Gracie. They did not want to leave. The idea of walking all the way back to Jigalong seemed both dangerous and impossible. But Molly was adamant and iron-willed and single-minded - all good qualities in a real-life heroine. She dragged those two kids out of there. They were going, like it or not. Daisy, who loves to tell the story, still lives in awe of her bigger sister. In thrall to her.

Molly had one or two things going for her. It was winter (July) and there had been plenty of rain. But the real key to her return was the rabbit-proof fence. In 1931 the fence straddled the country north to south and was well maintained. Molly knew that if she could find the fence it would lead her back to Jigalong.

The girls set off and over nine weeks managed to elude the Moore River tracker and the police hunt which ensued. Molly was clever. She made sure they travelled by night and kept to the edge of the cleared area of the fence. In the more settled areas they were given food by farmers' wives but as they got into their own country their hunting skills came into play. Daisy was most proud of a wild cat which they managed to hunt and kill. It was Molly's skill, cunning and determination which got her and Daisy home and which outwitted a whole state apparatus.

Gracie left the girls near Meekatharra and was captured. This was keenly felt by Molly all her life. She had assumed responsibility for her sisters and felt she had failed one of them. "I lost one," she told me. On their return Molly and Daisy were taken into the desert by their families.

Molly married an Aboriginal stockman, Toby Kelly, and worked with him at Balfour Downs station. It was here that her eldest daughter, Doris, was born. Molly had two children, Doris and Annabelle, and when she developed appendicitis she was taken, with them, to Perth and then back to the Moore River settlement. She walked back to Jigalong once again, carrying the baby, Annabelle. She was forced to leave Doris at Moore River. When Annabelle was three she was removed from Molly and taken south. Molly never saw her again.

Molly spent her working life on stations in her country. In 1962 she was working at Meekatharra when Doris and her family turned up. Doris had managed to track down her mother and father. Later she would tell her mother's story in the book Follow The Rabbit-Proof Fence on which the film was based.

Molly spent the last years of her life in Jigalong. She and Daisy lived next door to each other except that Molly didn't exactly live in her house, but on the veranda, moving her bed according to where the wind was coming from.

In January 2002 the world premiere of Rabbit-Proof Fence was held at Jigalong. A projector was trucked in and a big, blow-up screen was erected. There, under a perfect desert sky, 1000 blackfellas from all around the desert and from as far away as Port Hedland, came to watch the film which told Molly's heroic story. Molly and Daisy walked across the red sand like queens and sat and watched the very first film they had ever seen. Molly could not relate what she was watching to herself. But the audience embraced it entirely.

The next day Molly held court on her veranda as everyone called in to congratulate her. She was an extraordinary woman. Clever, proud, above all strong. Neville had determined what sort of a life Molly should have. He thought he knew what was best for her. Molly begged to differ. She lived her life the way she wanted to. That was her triumph.

Molly is survived by Doris and Annabelle, 10 grandchildren and numerous great- and great-great-grandchildren.

Christine Olsen

Christine Olsen wrote and co-produced Rabbit-Proof Fence.

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence is an Australian book by Doris Pilkington, published in 1996. Based on a true story, the book is a personal account of an indigenous Australian family's experiences as members of the Stolen Generation – the forced removal of mixed-race children from their families during the early 20th century. It tells the story of three young Aboriginal girls: Molly (the author's mother), Daisy (Molly's sister), and their cousin Gracie, who are forcibly removed from their families, later escape from a government settlement in 1931, and then trek over 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) home by following the rabbit-proof fence, a massive pest-exclusion fence which crossed Western Australia from north to south.

The book was adapted as a film, Rabbit-Proof Fence, in 2002.


Doris Pilkington had spent much of her early life from the age of four at the Moore River Native Settlement in Western Australia, the same facility the book chronicles her mother, aunt's and cousin's escape from as children. After reuniting with her family, Pilkington says she did not talk to her mother much, and she was not aware of her mother's captivity at Moore River nor the story of her escape, until her Aunt Daisy told her the story. Repeating the story at an Aboriginal family history event in Perth, one of the attendees told Pilkington he was aware of the story and that the case was fairly well-documented. He gave her some documents and clippings which formed the factual backbone of the story on which Pilkington based a first draft.[1]

Pilkington submitted the draft to a publisher in 1985 but was told it was too much like an academic paper and that she should try her hand at writing fiction. Her first novel, Caprice, A Stockman's Daughter, won the David Unaipon Literary Award and was published in 1990 by the University of Queensland Press. Pilkington then rewrote and filled out Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence following several years of interviewing her mother and aunt, and it was published in 1996.[1]


Map of the actual Rabbit-proof fence showing the trip from Moore River to Jigalong.

Molly, her sister and cousin are taken to Moore River for schooling to become more like a white person and to eventually be taken to a (more) rural part of W.A. The girls escaped from the Settlement and took the 1,600km walk home.[2]

Film adaptation

Shortly after the book's publication, the film rights were obtained by scriptwriter Christine Olsen, who wrote the script and was persistent in her pitching of the film to Hollywood-based Australian director Phillip Noyce. Noyce agreed to direct the film, which was released in 2002 and starred Everlyn Sampi as Molly, and British actor Kenneth Branagh as A. O. Neville, the Chief Protector of Aborigines.


  1. ^ Jump up to:a b Quin, Karl (17 February 2002). "Molly's Story". The Sunday Age. Retrieved 6 December 2007.
  2. Jump up^ Matheo, Demetrios: The long walk home, The Daily Telegraph, 1 September 2002.

Doris Pilkington Garimara dies; wrote of Australia's 'stolen generations'

By , Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2014

When she was 4, Doris Pilkington Garimara was uprooted from her home in western Australia and sent to a camp for "half-caste" aboriginals, where she grew up believing she had been abandoned and forgotten by her mother.

Decades passed before she learned the full story – one that would not only answer painful questions about her past but help Australians understand one of the ugliest chapters in theirs.

Pilkington Garimara and her mother belonged to "the stolen generations"—the estimated 100,000 children of mixed aboriginal and white ancestry who by government edict were snatched from their homes and reared in desolate settlements. By separating them from their darker-skinned relatives, the policy aimed to assimilate them into white society.

The forced removals occurred through most of the last century, ending in the 1970s but kept hidden far longer, in part because those who had been the targets accepted what the government told them: that aboriginal people were dirty and evil.

"I actually despised my own traditional culture because we were taught to," Pilkington Garimara once said. "I was taught to deny my own people."

Pilkington Garimara, who was believed to be 76 when she died of ovarian cancer April 10 in Perth, Australia, eventually reclaimed her heritage, telling a moving tale of her mother's escape from the government camp and 1,000-mile trek home in the 1996 book "Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence."

"Her impact on Australians' sense of themselves can't be overstated," said director Phillip Noyce, whose highly praised 2002 film based on the book bolstered the campaign that brought a formal apology from the Australian government in 2008.

"She helped Australians understand and come to terms with our previously hidden history," Noyce, born and raised in Australia, said in an interview last week.

For Pilkington Garimara, the story began in 1931, when government agents seized three half-aboriginal girls from their home in the tiny town of Jigalong and sent them to the Moore River Settlement 1,000 miles away.

One of the girls was her mother, Molly, then 14. The other two were Molly's 10-year-old sister Daisy and 9-year-old cousin Gracie.

At the camp there were bars on the windows, padlocks on the doors and buckets for toilets. Anyone who tried to run away was beaten and isolated.

After one night Molly persuaded the other two girls to escape with her. Pretending they were going to the edge of the camp to empty their slop buckets, they fled when no one was looking.

Molly knew how to get home. A fence built in the early 1900s to protect farmland from rabbits ran the length of the continent; it was by some accounts the longest unbroken fence in the world. Jigalong was located along this "rabbit-proof" fence. The girls had to head east to find it, then follow it north to reach their native land.

Pursued by trackers, they found the fence midway through the arduous crossing through the outback, greeting it, Pilkington Garimara wrote, "like a long-lost friend … a beacon that would lead them out of the rugged wilderness across a strange country to their homeland." Nine weeks after beginning their trek, Molly and Daisy were given a hero's welcome in Jigalong but arrived without Gracie, who had turned herself in to authorities.

Molly moved to the desert, out of reach of government wardens, and married an aboriginal man. She had two children, the eldest of whom was a girl she named Nugi Garimara, later renamed Doris. Because the government did not record aboriginal births, her exact birth date was uncertain; she was later issued one--July 1, 1937.

That year, A.O. Neville gave a speech about the Aborigines Act of 1905, which had created his job as chief protector of all aboriginal and "half-caste" children -- the law that would rupture Molly's life again. "We have power … to take any child from its mother at any stage of its life," said Neville, who was portrayed in the movie by actor Kenneth Branagh. "Are we going to have a population of 1 million blacks in the Commonwealth or are we going to merge them into our white community and eventually forget that there ever were any aborigines in Australia?"

In 1941, while Molly was hospitalized with appendicitis, Neville ordered agents to grab her daughters and sent them to the Moore River Settlement. When she recovered, she joined 4-year-old Doris and 18-month-old Anna there. After a year, however, she ran back to Jigalong, taking the baby with her. She had no time to say goodbye to Doris, whom she left in the care of Daisy, the sister who had escaped Moore River with Molly a decade earlier and, like Molly, had been forced to return.

At Moore River, Doris was beaten for speaking her native Mardudjara language. At 12 she was placed at a farm run by missionaries who turned her against aboriginal culture. Her little sister Anna had been recaptured and grew up at another settlement reserved for the lightest-skinned aboriginal children.

Doris worked for many years as a community health nurse in Geraldton, about 260 miles north of Perth. She married a man with the last name Pilkington and raised six children; later she studied journalism.

She is survived by four children, 31 grandchildren and 80 great-grandchildren, said her daughter, Bernadine Pilkington.

Pilkington Garimara grew up thinking that "my mother didn't want me and gave me away," she told The Australian newspaper in 2004. But she gradually learned the truth from her Aunt Daisy and wrote down her aunt's stories, filling in the gaps with research from state archives where the escape had been well documented. She eventually wrote four books, of which "Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence" was best known.

Australian filmmaker Christine Olsen worked with the author to develop a screenplay. She persuaded Noyce, who had directed such Hollywood blockbusters as "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger," to put aside a project with Harrison Ford for a low-budget drama about three aboriginal girls wrenched from their families.

The success of the movie "Rabbit-Proof Fence" propelled Pilkington Garimara into the spotlight, leading her in 2002 to join former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser as a patron of a national campaign of racial reconciliation, called Journey of Healing.

She had taken her own healing journey decades earlier, when she was in her mid-20s and traveled back to Jigalong to find her mother.

"I asked her: 'Why did you give me away?'" she recalled in The Australian. "She just broke down and said: 'I never did, the government came and took you away.' She had no rights as a mother or an aboriginal woman."

On one of her visits, Pilkington Garimara went to the spot beneath a wintamarra tree where her mother had given birth to her prematurely.

Sitting under that tree with her mother "was the most spiritual event in both our lives," she told Olsen, "that mother and daughter had gone back to this very spot that the premature daughter was born and given a week to live. Yet that little baby there said, 'No way.'"

[email protected]

DMU Timestamp: November 01, 2017 20:56

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