Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following story contains images and names of people who have died.
The journey of Daisy Kadibil, her sister Molly, and cousin Gracie was an inspirational story, but one that speaks volumes of a tragedy inflicted on many Aboriginal children, some of who didn't survive: the forced removal of children from their families for the sole reason of being Indigenous.
The three 'Rabbit Proof Fence' girls were taken in 1931 as part of the Stolen Generations. They escaped and followed the rabbit-proof fence, and walked 2,400 kilometres from Moore River Native Title Settlement to their home in Jigalong, while in hot pursuit by white law enforcement authorities. Daisy was only 8 years old at the time.
Their journey was turned into a movie 70 years later and gave many Australians their first insight into one of Australia’s darkest practices.
In April, Daisy passed away in Roebourne, Western Australia, at 95 years of age.
Her family, community members and the West Australian Aboriginal Affairs Minister attended her final farewell in her home community of Jigalong, 165 kilometres east of Newman in the Pilbara.
Hundreds of people travelled to the remote community to pay their respects to the Matru woman.
Nanna Daisy’s grandson, Darryl Jones spoke at the funeral
“It was a sad day,” he said.
“The state government never offered us a state funeral, and it’s very sad because if they would've asked me, I would've said yes and we would of all been happy.”
Her cousin Gracie's daughter also spoke to the crowd gathered at the funeral about her beloved ‘mummy Daisy’.
Nanna Daisy is survived by her children Elizabeth, Noreena, Jerry, and Margaret and their families.
Minister Wyatt’s personal connection
WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Ben Wyatt, whose father was also a part of the Stolen Generations, attended the funeral.
"As we've heard here today at the funeral [she led] a very significant life, with a very significant story that was told to the world, not just to Western Australians,” he said.
"I think it highlights these stories and the ongoing process of reconciliation, and understanding what happened when all those kids were taken from family across Western Australia.”
Mr Wyatt’s grandmother was taken to Moore River and father was also born there. He knew Nanna Daisy well, as his dad Cedric Wyatt lived the last decade of his life as the manager of the remote community.
“It’s the determination of this old lady, and the determination, the commitment, and the love of her family and the connection to country, that allowed us as a state and nation to celebrate her,” Mr Wyatt told the crowd of mourners.
"I think today … has been a lovely celebration of her life and her incredible story," he said.
Western Australia’s Stolen Generations History
For more than a century, the Moore River Native Settlement was the notorious camp where Aboriginal children were sent after the government took them from their families and off their country.
An estimated 374 people died at the settlement. Most of them were children who suffered from infectious diseases.
An estimated 203 children were buried at Moore River, 149 were five years old or less and more than 100 were under the age of one.
The inspirational story of Daisy, Molly and Gracie was turned into a book by Doris Pilkington in 1996, the same year the hearings and submissions for the Bringing Them Home Report were conducted.
A movie based on the book was released in 2002; it went on to become an internationally acclaimed film. The true story of these sisters shed light on Australia’s black history to both national and international audiences.
Jigalong Elder Brian Samson said Daisy's love and connection to her country brought her back home.
"She had a love of her people and the land where she came from," Mr Samson said.
"She was taught and skilled to live off the land, and that's how they survived coming back home. The policies that removed our families away [are] a shame, a wrong that's never forgiven."
Ms Kadibil’s strong connection to her culture and country were reflected in the her funeral, which followed traditional Aboriginal customs and protocols.