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Pilkington, Doris (1937 - 2014)

Balfour Downs station, near Jigalong, Western Australia
10 April 2014
Writer and Nurse
Alternative Names
  • Garimara, Nugi (Aboriginal name)


Doris Pilkington is the author of Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence; the story on which Phillip Noyce's celebrated feature film is based.


Doris Pilkington was born on Balfour Downs station, 60 kilometres northwest of Jigalong in the Pilbara district, Western Australia. Aged four she was forcibly removed with her mother to the Moore River settlement, 115 kilometres north of Perth. Doris attended the settlement school before moving to Perth, where she began training as a nursing aide at the Royal Perth hospital. She later moved to Geraldton and, after raising her children, completed her secondary education. She returned to Perth to study journalism at Curtin University.

During a holiday at Jigalong, Pilkington discovered that her mother, Molly Kelly, was sent from Jigalong to the Moore River settlement at the age of 14, together with her two cousins aged eight and ten. The children escaped and returned to Jigalong by following the 1,000 kilometre long rabbit-proof fence - a journey which took them several months to complete. Inspired by these experiences, Doris wrote a novella, Caprice: A Stockman's Daughter (1991), which won the 1990 David Unaipon award. She also wrote Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (1996), which was later turned into Phillip Noyce's feature film, Rabbit-Proof Fence (2001).

Sources used to compile this entry: 'Fearless writer revealed the lives behind the Sorry Day stories of dispossession', The Age, 26 April 2014, p. 36; Horton, David (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, society and culture, Aboriginal Studies Press for AIATSIS, Canberra, 1994, 2 v. (xxxiii, 1340 p.) pp; Olsen, Christine, 'Shiner of light on stolen generation', Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 2014, p. 35.

Leonarda Kovacic and Barbara Lemon

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