Rabbit-Proof Fence Movie Poster Image

Rabbit-Proof Fence



Powerful drama about racism OK for tweens and up.
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2002
  • Running Time: 93 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Children show strong resolve to be with parents against all odds. However, the British believe the Aborigine is an inferior race.


Forceful taking of children from their mothers, armed standoff.


Obscured reference to a white master forcing himself upon his Aboriginal servant.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is an intense drama depicting three Aboriginal children leaving an Australian internment camp in an attempt to reunite with their families. The scene of the government official taking the children away is intensely emotional, though only moderately violent. During the journey home, the children are hidden by an Aboriginal servant in her bed, and her master is surprised when he goes to sleep with her and finds the children. A confrontation between a British official with a gun and an Aboriginal mother with a spear is tense, but results in no use of force.

What's the story?

Set in 1931, RABBIT-PROOF FENCE brings to the screen the horrific consequences of a British policy that removed Australian children who were of mixed white/Aboriginal background from their homes (a practice that continued until the 1970s). In this true story, Molly Craig (Everlyn Sampi), her sister Daisy (Tianna Sansbury), and their cousin Gracie (Laura Monaghan) are all "half castes," what the British call children of mixed-race couples. Their British fathers have long since left, and their homes are with their mothers in Jigalong, an area along a rabbit-proof fence that cuts through the middle of Australia. British officials, wanting to improve the upbringing of all half-castes, forcibly take the children to an internment camp where they are to be trained as domestic workers and integrated into society. Once there, Molly's longing for her home is so strong that she makes an escape with her sister and cousin, following the fence to get back to Jigalong.

Is it any good?


The children's performances are quite strong. While appearing courageous on their treacherous journey, they are also able to show their hidden fear. This film does not simply cast the British as unsympathetic villains; while they do believe the Aborignie is an inferior race to the British, their desire to recapture the escaped children is motivated at least partly by a fear for the children's well-being.

While the tale is emotionally charged, it is appropriate for any older children or tweens who are mature enough to handle the scene of the children being taken away from their parents.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about true stories. Do you believe that this movie is 100 percent fact? How would you find out?

  • What do you think of popular movies' ability to tell history? Do you think you get an accurate picture of what happened? Do you care more than if you read about this practice in a history book?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 29, 2002
DVD/Streaming release date:August 19, 2003
Cast:David Gulpilil, Jason Clarke, Ningali Lawford
Director:Phillip Noyce
Run time:93 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:emotional thematic material.

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Educator and Parent Written byOprabben March 7, 2015

Inspiring, girl power, beauty, champion, racism, family, message, mixed race

I'm surprised by the sanitized family discussion topic recommendations given for this movie by Common Sense Media because they leave out the real deal. This movie is a jaw-dropping and heartwarming depiction of the amazing resilience of three mixed-race girls who run away from oppressive and degrading circumstances in Australia in the first part of the 1900s after being kidnapped away from their mothers and homes by the so-called "Protector of Aborigines." As "half caste" children of white fathers and Aborigine mothers, Molly, Daisy and Gracie are all subject to removal under the policies of the day, from the loving family and community where they belong, for the overtly racist purpose of raising them in white culture and breeding them with whites so that their own children and grandchildren supposedly may no longer be "tainted" by Aboriginal genetics. After the girls are ripped from mother's arms by state agents and carried to a home for children managed by white nuns 1200 miles away from home, 14-year-old Molly determines they will not stay. Although many children have tried to run away before them, they are always returned through the wiles of an Aborigine tracker who follows their footsteps. Molly however is herself well-versed in ways of tracking and finds ingenious methods of evading the expert's eye through many miles of wilderness, with 8- and 10-year olds in tow. The full force of state power is also on their trail, sending cars and publishing repeated bulletins to the public for their recapture. Many persons help the girls along their way, and their own expert knowledge of the environment and a spirit of fortitude help them along, even through the hot desert, and without maps to guide them. Over two months later, two of the girls arrive at home to a joyous greeting, the third having been recaptured when she attempted to board a train to meet her mother in a neighboring city. The acting is convincing and effective. Visual effects are well-done and the landscape and peoples of Western Australian are beautifully portrayed. There is a lovely scene in the beginning where Molly is congratulated by her family after she tracks down a large lizard and extracts it from a tree for the family's supper pot. Intriguing traditions of song, dress, food, and spirituality are also portrayed, along with an explanation of the "rabbit proof fence" that helps them return home, the longest actual fence in the world. Traditional cultural knowledge and the strength of family ties are the champions in the end. The movie is enlivened at the finale by footage of the actual subjects of this true story, now elderly, with poignant updates on their history. Age-related concerns for movie watchers involve primarily the emotional intensity of the story. A few notes of violence are briefly revealed. The kidnapping is graphically portrayed, the girls being scooped up by uniformed men, with women pounding and crying at the departing car. The grandmother is shown for a few seconds systematically beating her own bloody head with a rock in grief. Later, a police agent with a rifle and mother with a pointed stick have a tense but silent showdown of wills in the wooded area by a river, with no actual violence. More disturbingly, earlier in the movie at the home for children, a captured runaway is sent into a shack followed by a nun carrying scissors, being admonished "you knew what would happen," and we hear her crying out as she is beaten, cut or stabbed (it's not made clear which). All we see later is a partial image of her as Molly gazes through chinks in the hut at the girl's tear-stained and possibly bruised face. Although troubling it is more an allusion to violence than its open depiction, and necessary to understand the desire to get away. The "Protector" pays the home a visit and inspects the children's skin tones to determine which ones (those with lighter skins) will be sent to school, a particular humiliation to Molly. He is also seen lecturing a group of white Australians about the supposed moral superiority of whites, using slide images and some offensive race-based language such as "quadroons" to refer to persons of mixed-race, and refers repeatedly throughout the movie to "helping" the aborigines by removing their mixed-race children from them. Great opportunities abound in this 90-minute, PG family flick to talk with children about important topics such as institutionalized racism in history and its abuses, about the diversity of cultures and cultural ideals, about the choice faced by the children in the home of whether to stay in an abusive situation and make the best of it, and about having the determination and know-how to act to save yourself when you really believe in something. There is yet another interesting choice when Gracie decides to leave the two other girls to try to meet her mother by train. The child protagonists all make strongly likeable heroes: sweet, canny, determined, and loyal to each other. Even though they didn't have it all planned out, they had the faith and courage, and the skill set needed to get started, and to respond to an evolving situation, making fools out of their well-meaning yet profoundly misguided pursuers, and achieving their objective in the end.
Parent of an infant and 2 year old Written bynearlyfallinstar May 13, 2011

Pretty Mild & a Good Story

This is one of those movies that I wouldn't be too concerned about my two year old being in the room while it was playing. When the girls are taken away, it's intense, but not violent. He just picks them up and puts them in a car. There wasn't any real abuse in the camp. One girl is put in confinement for running away, but again no violence. As for the sexual reference, it was vague. I didn't realize it myself till I read it on this site's overall review.
Parent of a 11 and 14 year old Written byanjalib August 22, 2013

Super cool

it is a bit horrifing
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex