CULTURE IN FILM

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Understanding Rabbit Proof Fences and the History of Indigenous Aboriginal people

I’ve spent a good amount of time in Brisbane Australia. My role has been that of a visiting scholar at Queensland University of Technology. My research centered around media literacy training and education for community members whose work involved educating adolescents and young adults of indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. It was an eye-opening and impactful experience. The film, Rabbit Proof Fences, is one of my favorites. Although it is only one film to enlighten your understanding of the historical experiences of the indigenous people of Australia, it is nonetheless useful and valuable.

History

A Brief History of Australia Aboriginal (indigenous) Australians were the first people on the Australian continent. They arrived in Australia from Asia more than 40,000 years ago. Although there are many Aboriginal groups, with their own languages, customs and cultures, they have some practices in common, including a close relationship with the earth and a rich tradition of oral story telling. Aboriginal Australians were traditionally hunter-gatherers. The British set up their first official camp in Eastern Australia in 1788. Soon after, British colonial officers travelled to Western Australia (WA) and began to claim Aboriginal lands as their own. Fighting broke out as Aboriginal Australians resisted European control. This resistance was violently repressed and many Aboriginal Australians were imprisoned or exploited for their labor. The first European government of Western Australia saw the Aboriginal Australians as a problem that needed to be controlled. Colonial officials introduced policies that oppressed and harmed Aboriginal communities for many years. One of these policies - the 1905 Aborigines Act - granted the government legal control of all Aboriginal people living in its territory. The colonial government appointed a ‘chief protector’ to oversee all Aboriginal affairs. In 1911, the WA Chief Protector, A.O. Neville, introduced a policy to remove all part Aboriginal children from their families. Neville was worried about the creation of a ‘third race’ - people of mixed Aboriginal and European descent. Under his policy, mixed descent Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to government or church-run institutions such as missions, orphanages and reserves. Some were also adopted or housed temporarily with foster families. They were taught to forget their culture so that they could, in time, be assimilated into the white population. Many of these children never saw their birth parents again. While Aboriginal Australians were formally recognized as citizens of Australia in 1967, it was not until 2008 that the Australian government officially apologized for the policies that created the Stolen Generations. While Aboriginal Australians continue to struggle with the impacts of colonization on their society and culture, many have achieved success in different areas, and Aboriginal Australian art and music is now celebrated all over the world

Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families throughout Australia until 1970. Today many of these Aboriginal people continue to suffer from this destruction of identity, family life and culture. They are referred as the Stolen Generations.

The concept of the Stolen Generations is still controversial in Australia. Some Australians deny the idea, while others recognize it and agree that these children and their families suffered greatly. In 2008, the Australian government publicly acknowledged and apologized for the policies, which caused the Stolen Generations. As you view Rabbit Proof Fences remember this history and this experience of the indigenous community in Australia.

Reflection:

This report should be a minimum of 750-1,000 words [2 - 3 pages in length]. It should not be a simple summary of the film - I've already viewed it; instead, it should be an analysis of the issues and recommendations in the film that are grounded in Intercultural Communication theory(ies) and concepts from your current chapter readings. So most importantly, use the current readings to support your observations citing when you use content from the chapter or reading provided.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What is your opinion on the Stolen Generations?
  2. Why do you think some Australians deny the idea of the Stolen Generations based on the film content?
  3. What do you think the impact of the Stolen Generations has been on the Australian Aboriginal community? Think about the effects on the children, as well as on the communities in general.
  4. How do you think the Australian Aboriginals’ situation is in Australia today?
  5. What problems might there be between them and the government?
  6. Do they think the government has a responsibility to help them? Why/why not?
  7. What cognitive dissonance if any did you experience as you viewed the film.
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