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I rarely watch "The making of ..." films which are tacked on to the DVD's but after watching "Rabbit Proof Fence" I turned to the documentary out of curiosity. We rarely get a chance to see how the native Australian people live today. I was fascinated seeing today's Aboriginal children dressed in their swanky togs, as children in an affluent western society. Having lived in Australia's outback in the 1960's, I realized that the native Australians have come a long way.
The most disturbing thing for me was to realize that the government policy of removing the children from their native backgrounds to teach them to survive in a white society, abhorrent as it is to us today, was ultimately successful. The government policy sprang from a genuine concern for the future welfare of the half-white children who were mostly abandoned by their fathers. Aboriginal culture was not considered worth preserving as it was not considered to be "culture". What better than to take these children, educate them, teach them western ways and a means to earn a living in good Christian homes.
As recently as 40 years ago, Aboriginals were noncitizens who were denied the vote, and by law, were only paid a fraction of the "white" rate for work. There was a male rate, a female rate which was 5/8ths of what a man was paid, and an Aboriginal rate, which was far lower. Aboriginals were not considered in any equal, and many white Australians felt that it would be better when the race had died out. At that time, anyone who tried to enlighten the native people to their 3rd class status and demand better conditions was considered to be a trouble making agitator putting ideas into their heads. A "good Aborigine" was a docile servant who knew his/her place and kept quiet.
Seeing the confident children being tested for the roles in the film, and the difficulty of finding Aboriginal children who still connected with the old ways underlined the reality that the native Australians are now firmly into the modern western world.
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