If you told me this was required reading for Australian middle schoolers, I would believe it. It has that quality of an obvious kind of black and white ethical framework, the story of young people, the story of oppression, and then fortitude of a hard journey all within a small package.
I think it’s a pretty good book. But the book itself lends itself well to young readers because it’s really good at creating a clear sense of the context of the events.
In this story three young girls of mixed heritage have been taken from their families in order to wards of the state. Because of their mixed racial identity, the belief of state officials and of state policy is that their blackness makes them “wild” and their whiteness mitigates this, but doesn’t protect them from themselves, so they must be rehomed, which works out to mean essentially indentured.
So they run away back home. The bulk of the story is their surviving the incredibly harsh climates of the Australian desert to make their way home.
The rabbit-proof fence is a clear symbol for them on their journey as a literal marker of a border to help them guide their journey, but of course it’s also a complicated symbol of their oppression. The fence itself was designed to keep the invasive species of rabbits from crossing state borders. So it’s a fence to keep things out, but it was placed their by the Europran invaders, who are themselves an invasive species, and just becomes a symbol of how unaccustomed these first European settlers were to their adopted home.