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Rabbit Proof Fence

“I used to be best friends with Molly’s granddaughter Maria.  We used to sit around the fire, eat damper and listen to that story. I would go there every night to hear that story.  I used to be married to Daisy Kadibil’s grandson, it’s my kids history, their story.  Gotta inspire your family to keep the story going, keep painting.”   

– Tanya Charles

In 1931 sisters Molly Craig, Daisy Kadibil and Gracie Fields were taken from their families, like many other Aboriginal children at that time, and transported to Moore River Native Settlement, north of Perth. They were taken away in the belief that part-Aboriginal children should be trained as domestic servants. 

The three girls escaped the next day and, incredibly, walked 1600 kilometres home to Jigalong using the Rabbit-Proof Fence to navigate. The Rabbit Proof Fence remains the world’s longest fence, and was built in the early 1900s to separate rabbits from pasture. For nine weeks, the girls followed its length in order to be reunited with their family. They crossed a flooded river, sand dunes, heathlands, wheatbelts and plains, claypans and salt lakes. They slept in dug-out rabbit burrows, and caught and cooked rabbits, along with other plant based bush tucker. For the duration of their journey they were pursued by policeman and an Aboriginal police tracker.

The girls’ story has been immortalised in the novel “Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence” by Doris Pilkington (Nugi Garimara, 1996), and was adapted into the film “Rabbit Proof Fence” (2002). This story retains special significance for the Martu, and in particular those inhabitants of Jigalong Aboriginal community. The three girls were Martu, and their children and grandchildren continue to live in the Martu homelands today.

Name: Tanya Charles

Community: Jigalong


I was born in Hedland but grew up most my life in Jigalong on the stations till 1988. Then i went to school.

© the artist / art centre