We honour Doris Pilkington Nugi Garimara with an Intermix Positive Contribution Award for her novel Follow
The Rabbit-Proof Fence which drew world attention to the terrible treatment of Mixed-Race children and their
Aboriginal parents by the Australian government.
Born on Balfour Downs Station - 60 kilometres west of the Jigalong community in the East Pilbara, Australia,
Doris Pilkington Nugi Garimara was forcibly removed from her family at the age of three and a half and taken
to the Moore River Settlement north of Perth.
The settlement was part of the state-controlled eugenics programme known as the Aborigines Act and as part of
this Act, more than 100,000 Mixed-Race children were forcibly removed from their parents. This diabolical act
remained operative until the 1970's. Over a period of some 65 years, these children were removed from their
Aboriginal families and communities and placed in white care.
Once away from their families, they were categorised according to their skin colour, the lighter they were the
more intelligent they were thought to be. They would then be trained to become servants to white families and
disown their Aboriginal families. As they grew older, they were forced to marry into white families in an effort
to 'breed' out their 'black' characteristics. The government believed that within a few generations of marriages
to white individuals these, families would become 'white' again.
Known as 'the stolen generations', many never saw their parents, brothers or sisters ever again and to this day
some are still being reunited with their long lost families.
The novel Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence is the story of Doris’s mother Molly, then just 14-years, her 8-year-old
sister Daisy and their 10-year-old cousin Gracie. It tells of how they are ripped from their mothers' arms at a
remote trading post near a tribal community called Jigalong, and placed in the Moore River settlement as part of
the government's Assimilation policy. The story follows the children as they escape from the settlement and over
a period of nine weeks, walk more than fifteen hundred miles back to Jigalong.
The book gets its title from the thousands of miles of barbed wire that once bisected Australia's interior to protect
remote farmland from nibbling critters on one side and provide good hunting on the other. With the help of a
sympathetic farmer's wife, Molly and the girls find this fence, which also runs through Jigalong, and know they
can follow it all the way home.
Made into the film Rabbit-Proof Fence, the story of Doris’ family trauma drew sympathisers from all over the world.
It is a story many would never have known about had Doris not had the strength to put her family’s story into print.