I chose Daisy Burungu Kadibil for my VIP for this week because of her accomplishments and not because she had anything to do with America. Daisy was born in 1923 to a mother who “was of the Martu people” and a father (Thomas Craig) who was of English descent. This made Daisy “half-caste” according to the Australian government.
“[Daisy] was a member of the Stolen Generations, which were Aboriginal children forcibly removed from their families by the Australian government.” Australia had an “assimilation policy that sought to absorb Aboriginal people into the country’s white society by taking children from their families and indoctrinating them in the ways of that dominant culture.”
Approximately eight years old in 1931, Daisy, along with her cousins Molly and Gracie (whose mothers were Daisy’s aunts), were taken from their home in the Jigalong Community in northwestern Australia and sent to the Moore River Native Settlement more than 800 miles south. Thomas Craig (Daisy’s father) was also the father of Molly, so they were both half-sisters and cousins.
The girls escaped the internment camp after spending only one night there. They were determined to return to their home that was 800-1000 miles away. Their journey home took eight to nine weeks, and they accomplished it by following the rabbit-proof fence in Australia as their guide in traveling north.
The trek home was difficult for the young girls as they not only traveled hundreds of miles, but they did it while evading search parties. At night they slept under bushes or in rabbit burrows. Sometimes Molly carried one or the other of the younger girls. The trio found their own food, even though farmers and hunters sometimes gave them some.
Kadibil worked as a housekeeper and cook on stations in the Pilbara of Western Australia. She married and had four children. She had children in Wiluna, Western Australia, then returned to Jigalong. Members of her family established and still head the Parngurr Community. She died March 30, 2018, in a nursing home in South Hedland, Western Australia. [She was the last of the three girls to pass away.]
The ordeal of Daisy, Molly, and Gracie was told in Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence. The book was written by Doris Pilkington Garimara, Molly’s daughter and Daisy’s niece, and published in 1996. Doris also had the misfortune of being sent to the Moore River internment camp, but she was not reunited with Molly, her mother, for 20 years. An Australian movie, titled Rabbit-Proof Fence, came out in 2002 and tells the story of the three girls.
I am amazed that three young girls could travel 800-900 miles and survive. Obviously, they had received some survival training in their young years. Their story tells us that children can accomplish difficult things when they are prepared to deal with them and have the desire.