A scene of terrified children being snatched by a policeman while their mother struggles to grab them back was the focus of our most recent NFSA Connects event.
Christine Olsen, screenwriter and producer of Rabbit-Proof Fence, and Aunty Shirley Lomas, a member of the stolen generations, shared their experiences with students studying the film.
Christine’s detailed description of the filming of the scene left no doubt that it was a harrowing experience for all who witnessed it.
They only did one take — it felt so real that the actors and crew were emotionally drained.
Aunty Shirley’s testimony of being removed from her family at the age of three captured the attention of students, all of whom listened intently. Aunty Shirley’s inclusion was deeply appreciated. As one teacher commented, her ‘first-hand stories added an authenticity that can only come from guests who have actually experienced the situation.’
Other images from the film, such as the matron admonishing a dormitory of Aboriginal girls, helped illustrate what happened, but were also a trigger for Aunty Shirley’s memories.
Students were keen to learn where and how things were specifically filmed, how the young girls were prepared for the filming of the scene where they were stolen and how Christine gathered all the historical information that was included in the film.
Aunty Shirley’s memories took the discussion of the film to another dimension, with one student asking ‘What was it like to be stolen?’ Another wondered how our guests deal with stolen generation deniers. Aunty Shirley’s response was devastatingly simple and direct: ‘If you have something that belongs to you and I come and take it without your permission, that’s stealing.’