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The professional learning program

Term 3 Critiquing texts

The theme for Term 3 was Critiquing. The aim for students in this stage was to start to analyse, interpret and evaluate literate texts (verbal or visual), using text response genres. The aim for teachers’ professional development was to be able to select and analyse a range of texts for lesson planning, including text responses. The starting point was to review analysis of thematic stories, identifying messages and story phases. We then applied a set of discourse analysis tools to analysing texts in detail.

Often students are asked to say how they feel personally about a text they have read or seen. Less experienced readers may then write just that – a personal response that expresses their feelings, often with a retelling of the story. But more experienced readers know that they are actually supposed to evaluate the text more objectively – what the teacher actually wants is a review, that described the text and makes a judgement about it. The most highly valued type of responses are interpretations, that interpret the message that a text stands for, and give a synopsis of those elements of the text that carry the message.

These three kinds of texts responses are illustrated by the following responses to the book and movie Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (Pilkington 1996).




personal response

reacting emotionally to a text



evaluating a literary, visual or musical text

Description of text


interpreting the message of a text

Synopsis of text

Personal response


i felt so much pain for Gracie when she was taken again. I felt like rescuing her. I felt like bursting into tears when she cried "i wanna take the train to mummy!" The whole situation is hard to take in... but the fact that no matter what they did they were driven back to that horrible moore river place. It broke my heart when she had the disagreement with molly because she was desperate to see her mother again. It was so hard for her, having a different mother to both the other girls, knowing she was only a while away.
"Come on, we've got to go"
"But Molly, Mummy at wiluna. I want mummy."
In the real event, Gracie fields did get to Wiluna, but was discovered and taken the next day. she never made it to Jigalong


it just teared me apart... does anyone else feel that???
from sweetprincess www.imdb.com/title/tt0252444/board/nest/5105043



This book is about one of the dark chapters of Aboriginal Australian history: The "Stolen Generations". The "Aboriginal Protection Act" of 1897 allowed the authorities "to cause every Aboriginal within any district to be removed to, and kept within the limits of, any reserve". In addition, article 31 allowed them to provide "for the care, custody, and education of the children of Aboriginals" and prescribed "the conditions”.

Description of text

This is the political background, the setting which must be comprehended before the story's full tragedy can be understood. Three girls, Molly, Gracie and Daisy, are "half-caste" Aboriginal youngsters living together with their family of the Mardu people at Jigalong, Western Australia. One day a constable, a "Protector" in the sense of the Act, comes to take the three girls with him. They are placed in the Moore River Native Settlement north of Perth, some 1,600 kilometres away. Most children this was done to never saw their parents again. Thousands are still trying to find them.
This story is different. The three girls manage to escape from the torturing and authoritarian rule of the settlement's head. Guided by the rabbit-proof fence, which, at that time ran from north to south through Western Australia, they walk the long distance back to their family.


The authors are not professional writers which you'll notice while you read. But despite occasional stylistic flaws, the book has one advantage over novels: it's authentic. And this makes the story even more remarkable and the reader more and more concerned and shocked about the circumstances of that time. In the end you'll be as happy as the Mardu people when the girls come home, but your understanding of Australian history may have changed.
J. Korff 2004 www.creativespirits.de



It's intriguing how a simple story (originally released in 1996 with the title Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence) could become such a huge international success. Aunty Doris had an amazing mother who undertook the most incredible journey of her life against every single adversity – both natural and man-made – and still ended up losing her own precious children to the same government policy she thought she had conquered. It could only happen in Australia really.

Synopsis of text

For those on another planet for the last 12 months (or in denial of Australia's terrible history of abuse against Aboriginal people), Rabbit-Proof Fence is the true story of Molly, born near Jigalong in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia. Forcibly stolen as a child from her mother, along with her two sisters she is taken to the penal-like Moore River Settlement near Perth – a long way from home and virtually another world for the trio.
The policy makers of the time were adamant about the ‘rescue of the native’ in Western Australia - that by integrating them into white society and breeding them out they could be saved from their own ‘primitive savagery’. Moore River was a testament to these scruples in that it was responsible for training these half-caste children to be servants for white families, mainly in regional areas.
Treated harshly at Moore River, Molly sees only one option for her and her siblings - to commence the journey back home to her mother and extended family on foot. Escaping from their captors, the girls had no maps to guide them on the 1600 kilometre journey, just a long standing landmark to man's battle against nature – a north/south running rabbit-proof fence that stretched the length of the country to lead them home.


It's gripping stuff really, full of adventure, tragedy and rejoices – prime material for a feature length movie. It took the bravery of Australian director Phillip Noyce to see the inner triumph of this novel and turn it into a much lauded and almost definitive visual record of this country's treatment of Aboriginal people. And every single word is based on truth.
Aunty Doris has followed up this story with her recent release Under the Windmarra Tree. She writes with real passion and dignity that could only be conducted by the daughter of the main character. Needless to say, Rabbit-Proof Fence is one of the greatest Australian stories ever told. A milestone of an experience that still remains tragically silent in this country.
K. Martin 2004 www.abc.net.au/message/blackarts/review/s773970.htm

By the use of such texts, the expectations of the syllabus may be integrated with both literacy development and Indigenous perspectives.

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These materials are provided for research purposes and may contain opinions that are not shared by the Board of Studies NSW.