The Rabbit Proof Fence is a 1,832km fence that runs between Starvation Bay , near Ravensthorpe, to the Ninety Mile Beach, east of Port Hedland. It was originally built in 1902 to stop the influx of destructive rabbits into the farmlands of Western Australia. The fence is now mainly used to protect farmland from wild dogs and emus. The fence is the longest in the world.
Here’s How it all Started
In 1859 Thomas Austin imported 12 breeding pairs of rabbits from Europe to place on his property in Geelong, Victoria. The rabbits were to be used for sport (game hunting) but they soon began to breed out of control. In 1901 a Royal Commission was held into the increasing number of rabbits hopping into W.A. from South Australia and destroying crops.
The solution was to build a Rabbit Proof Fence. Construction of this post and wire mesh fence began in 1902 & was finally completed in 1907. By the time of its completion many rabbits had already hopped into W.A. Two more fences were built at taxpayers expense before the government realised it was a waste of time and money.
The original fence , also known as The State Barrier Fence, is now used mainly to control movement of wild dogs, dingoes, emus & kangaroos. It is estimated that over 8,000 tonnes of material were used in its initial construction. Many of the posts for the fence were cut from the nearby bushland (where possible). The south section of the fence passes to the east of Hyden.
Please note that poisoned 1080 baits are located along the fence. Keep your dogs or pets away from these baits. If ingested it is a slow death for the animal.
Like anything that creates a barrier , the fence has always been steeped in controversy. Farmers have been long supporters of the fence, claiming it has continued to save their crops from pests. Whilst critic claim it is the Berlin Wall against nature. Emphasising the cruel way migrating native animals such as emus have died trying to get over the wire in search of food and water.
In 2013 a plan was announced to extend the “old” rabbit proof fence by another 500 – 700kms to include the Great Western Woodlands . The farmers in the Esperance area claim they need further protection from wild dogs and emus. The wild dogs have long been a menace to sheep and the emus are notorious for destroying crops. Protesting the plan, the Conservation Council of Western Australia and Pew Environment Group say the new fence is a “cruel, unscientific and uneconomic” way to manage land. So far there has been no move by the Government to fund the extension.
Rabbit Proof Fence the Book and Movie
In 1996 the book Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington was published. The book, based on a true story, followed the plight of three young Aboriginal girls who were members of the Stolen Generation. Having been forcibly removed from their families in the 1930s they escaped from the Moore River Native Settlement and followed the Rabbit Proof Fence for 9 weeks until the made it home. In 2002 the book was made into a film by Phillip Noyce.