This is certainly the line taken consistently in the publicity surrounding the film and is prominent in the reactions and reviews.
Pilkington-Garimara’s account combined both the archival record and the oral record (what Brewster calls a “counter-archive”), which she derives mainly from her Aunty Daisy.
Pilkington-Garimara’s story was optioned by South Australian documentary film-maker Christine Olsen who adapted the narrative to write her first screen-play.
After a short period at Moore River the three girls – Molly (14), Daisy (11) and Gracie (8) – escaped from the settlement and walked some 1600km home, much of the way along the rabbit-proof fence that runs from the northern to the southern coast of Western Australia.
The story had a contemporaneous existence that can be traced in the local press as well as the archives of the WA Police Department and the Department of Native Affairs.
Clearly it also existed as a story amongst the people of Jigalong.
Doris Pilkington-Garimara, a historian and the daughter of Molly (the oldest of the three girls), published an account of the journey as Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence in 1996.
The three sisters escape and are pursued by the vengeful, angry witch every inch of the way. Now, even deep in the hinterland, the invaders are reaching out and taking away the children.
They must use all their cunning to evade her and get back home. They are placed in camps from which only three escape.
In the March 2002 issue of Australian Humanities Review, Anne Brewster put her finger on a dissonance that hangs between the “parallel universes” of Katherine Sussanah Prichard’s Coonardoo (1929) and Doris Pilkington-Garimara’s Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (1996), on which Noyce’s film was based.
Whilst nearly 80 years intervene between the publication of these two texts, the stories themselves are nearly contemporaneous and each concerns the Mardu people of the Western Desert and their violent relationship with the colonising population.