/ 2 July 2018

Remembering Daisy Kadibill’s inspiring true story

Kadibill’s heroic story of perseverance and staying true to yourself
Kadibill’s heroic story of perseverance and staying true to yourself

Daisy Kadibill has died at the age of 95. 

Kadibill’s heroic story of perseverance served as the inspiration for the award-winning 2002 movie Rabbit-Proof Fence.

Her story — first rendered in Doris Pilkington Garimara’s 1996 book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence — follows the tale of three young Aboriginal girls’ escape from the Australian gulags. The author is Kadibill’s niece and the book was an amalgamation of the experiences of Garimara’s mother and aunt.

The true story followed Daisy, her sister Molly and their cousin Grace on the harrowing 3 000km journey home. The girls, then aged between eight and 10 years old, were forcibly removed from their families in 1930. They were to be indoctrinated and taught to be domestic servants at the Moore River Native Settlement camp.

They escaped the camp in 1931, finding their way home by following wire fencing. This fence stopped rabbits from grazing on pastureland and guided their nine-week voyage. To this day, the ironic allusion of entrapment by barbed wire and yet using it to get to freedom inspires millions. 

Kadibill’s motivation to trek home stemmed from her need to keep her language and culture.

The plight of the three girls was shared by thousands of Aboriginal children. These children were taken away from their families and forced to renounce their traditions and heritage. At the gulags they were forced to recognise their imagined inferiority and learn “white ways”.

The programme of assimilation — which sought to colonise the land and its inhabitants — lasted from the early 1900s until the 1970s.

Kadibill, who died on March 30, belonged to the Martu group who were the traditional owners of the central Western Australian outback. Their land and children were seized from them in the early 1930s, leaving them deprived in social and economic aspects.

The movie creates awareness of the Aboriginals and their continuing struggles.