Eve Corbel

The death of Doris Pilkington (Aboriginal name Nugi Garimara) in April 214, at age seventy-six, is a good reminder of her book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (University of Queensland Press) and the film adaptation, Rabbit-Proof Fence (22). Doris’s mother, Molly, was fourteen years old when she and her younger sister and a cousin—“half-castes” (mixed Aboriginal and white heritage)—were forcibly taken from their family by Western Australia government officials in 1931. They (and many other kids) were installed at the faraway Moore River Native Settlement, essentially an internment camp. Days after arriving, Molly hatched an escape plan and the girls set out to find their way home by following the rabbit-proof fence, a barrier built right through Australia from north to south to protect crops. For weeks the girls endured heat, cold, dust, rain, hunger and infected feet and legs. Molly’s cousin was recaptured, but somehow Molly and her little sister kept going and even eluded an expert tracker dispatched by the authorities. Nine weeks and 1,6 kilometres later, the two girls got home to Jigalong. There the story ends, in the book and in the film, by which time you have run out of fresh hankies. But in real life there was more. Ten years later, when Molly was herself a young mother, her children—Doris, age three, and Anna, age eight months—were torn from her and shipped to Moore River. Molly wangled a job there and eventually absconded with the baby, but could not reach Doris and had to leave her behind. Doris grew up at Moore River, trained as a nurse, struggled with the racism she had learned and finally was reunited with her family. In 1996 her account of her mother’s escape became a published book, which became a film, which became an international success. Her next book, Under the Wintamarra Tree (Queensland, 23), is her own story of growing up as part of the “Stolen Generations” and of her journey—physical, emotional, metaphorical—to her birthplace under the wintamarra tree. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized to Aboriginal Australians on February 13, 28, for four minutes. Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to Canada’s aboriginal people for similar abuse on June 11, 28, for fifteen minutes.

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Eve Corbel

Eve Corbel is a writer, illustrator, cartoonist, mom and grandma. Her writing and artwork have been published in numerous anthologies and periodicals, including Geist.


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