Daisy Kadibil

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Daisy Kadibil 1923-2018

Daisy Kadibil -- who was eight years old in 1931 == when she escaped from an Australian internment camp along with her 14-year-old sister Molly and 10-year-old cousin Gracie -- was one of the Mighty Girl role models who passed away in 2018. The three girls' 800-mile (1,300 km) journey through the harsh Australian desert to return home inspired a book and the acclaimed film "Rabbit-Proof Fence." Daisy, who was the last surviving of the three, died in March at the age of 95. The extraordinary story of Daisy, Molly, and Gracie's nine-week trek introduced many people, both in Australia and around the world, to the tragedy of the "Stolen Generation", the tens of thousands of Australian Aboriginal children who were removed from their families between 1910 and 1970. "I come from Jigalong," Daisy wrote in a biographical note. "They took me away but I walked all around country back to where I was born. I came back."

After the girls were taken from their home in Jigalong, an Indigenous community in northwestern Australia, they were brought to the Moore River Native Settlement, an internment camp just north of Perth. For sixty years, many Aboriginal children, particularly mixed-race children, were forcibly taken from their families and sent to such camps with the aim of assimilating them into white Australian society. Notoriously overcrowded and unsanitary, children at the camps experienced high rates of illness and premature death. After the girls arrived at Moore River, they were determined to escape; Molly later declared "that place make me sick." After only one night, Molly led the two younger girls out of the camp and they started a long and dangerous journey home using the country-wide rabbit-proof fence as a guide. Along the way, they had to live off the land, sleep in dug-out rabbit burrows, and evade trackers hired by the government who looked for "absconding" children.

Once they made it home, Daisy never left again; she spent many years working as a cook and housekeeper at ranches in the region, and passed on the traditions of the Martu people to her four children. Her story was virtually unknown until the 1990s, when her niece, Doris Pilkington Garimara, wrote "Follow The Rabbit-Proof Fence," based on her mother and aunt's experiences; Garimara had also been separated from her family and spent years at the Moore River camp. When the book was adapted into the movie "Rabbit-Proof Fence," Stephen Holden of the New York Times called it a "devastating portrayal" of Australia's "disgraceful treatment" of its Aboriginal population," observing that "on the side of wrong is the Australian government, which, for more than half a century, carried out this appalling program of legalized kidnapping.” Lynne Craigie, president of the Shire of East Pilbara, where Daisy lived, says her memory will be preserved: "Daisy’s remarkable story is an indelible part of the history of the Shire…. and one that will always be shared and never forgotten."

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