Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence

by

Doris Pilkington

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence can help.

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Molly, Gracie, and Daisy sleep for part of the journey, and when they wake up and realize how far they have traveled they are too exhausted to even cry. The Constable does not tell the girls where, exactly, he is taking them, but the girls know they are headed to a settlement where they will attend school.
The Constable, having cruelly ripped the girls away from their families, now pushes his falsely altruistic agenda of sending them off to “school,” even as he purposefully allows the girls to remain disoriented and confused.  
Themes
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Altruism vs. Cruelty Theme Icon
Constable Riggs drives to a hospital and commits the two sick women, and then hands off Molly, Gracie, and Daisy to another official—Constable Melrose—for the remainder of their journey south.
The girls are no more than cargo to the various Constables who are charged with “protecting” them.
Themes
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Altruism vs. Cruelty Theme Icon
As Constable Melrose has other business to attend to, he leaves Molly, Gracie, and Daisy in a cell at a police station for three days. Yet another constable takes the girls on a train toward the sea, and when they arrive in the south, the constable puts them on a boat to Fremantle.
The girls are subjected to horrible and dehumanizing conditions, and passed from person to person with no regard for their comfort, safety, or state of mind.
Themes
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Altruism vs. Cruelty Theme Icon
The girls, never having been on a ship before, adjust to the rolling of the waves in their bunk on the lower deck. A few kind crew members attempt to gain the girls’ trust over the next several days, telling them stories of faraway lands and the many cultures of the world. One crew member teaches the girls a couple of constellations, telling them that if they are ever lost in the bush, the Southern Cross will be their guide.
On the ship, the girls finally encounter a measure of kindness, as crew members attempt to give the girls knowledge and tools that will help them feel less frightened, lost, and alone.
Themes
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Get the entire Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence LitChart as a printable PDF.
Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence PDF
The girls arrive in Fremantle, having had a pleasant journey south watching porpoises play in the waves and eating hearty breakfasts on board. One of the crew members who’d looked after the girls, Gwen, gives them raincoats and leads them ashore. The girls are overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of the big city. Gwen hands the girls over into the care of Matron Campbell from the East Perth Girls Home.
As soon as the boat trip is over, the girls are once again passed off to an individual who cares little for their well-being. The girls, alienated from the large city around them and feeling entirely disoriented, are barely allowed a moment to get their bearings before once again setting off in the care of a new stranger.
Themes
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Altruism vs. Cruelty Theme Icon
Molly, Gracie, and Daisy continue to take in the overwhelming atmosphere of the city on their way to the Perth Girls Home, where they meet some other girls who will join them the following morning on their journey to the settlement. The other girls brag loudly about how their parents will soon come to pick them up from school and take them home. None of the girls realize that their fate is entirely in the hands of the Department of Native Affairs. The following morning, Matron Campbell collects the girls and shepherds them all into a car. They set out for Moore River.
While Molly, Gracie, and Daisy are certainly frightened and disoriented, none of them seems to be harboring any delusions about the nature of their trip. They don’t seem to believe they’ll be returned to their families, or that their families will come fetch them. The girls they encounter in Perth, however, are either so full of grief that they have disconnected from reality, or have been told a harmful and deceitful lie by someone who was also in charge of their protection.
Themes
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Family, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Altruism vs. Cruelty Theme Icon
Pilkington cites two different letters which were sent through the Department of Native Affairs concerning the girls’ welfare. One, from Mr. Keeling (the superintendent at Jigalong Depot) advised the Chief Protector of Aborigines that “nothing would be gained” by removing the girls from their home. Pilkington writes that someone must have read the letter, but no one responded. Another letter to Constable Riggs, from the Chief Protector of Aborigines, states that the girls have been collected by Matron Campbell and are on their way to the settlement, but that they are “very scared of the other children and require watching to prevent them from running away.” The letter concludes that the girls will surely “accept the inevitable” and fall in line.
Despite Mr. Keeling’s warning that the girls were thriving with their families and would not be served by being taken away to Moore River, the government removed them from their homes anyway. The government’s “altruistic” agenda of “protecting and educating” Aboriginal children does not actually take into account those children’s welfare. Moreover, the assumption that the children will “accept the inevitable” is an insidious one but it is perhaps not incorrect—the white colonists were able to force the Aboriginals into submission time and time again, and so it makes sense that they would assume the pattern will repeat itself unendingly and to their advantage.
Themes
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Loss, Dispossession, and Reclamation Theme Icon
Family, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Altruism vs. Cruelty Theme Icon