Don’t Fence Me In

Australia has had three major fences:

1. The Western Australian Rabbit-Proof Fence

Completed in 1907, this fence runs roughly north-south from near Port Hedland to the Great Australian Bight, and was originally 1800 km long. It was intended to keep rabbits on the eastern side, but was generally regarded as a failure. Some 1100 km remain, mainly as a discouragement to emus moving from Central Australia to the greener pastures of the far west during drought times.

2. The Queensland Rabbit-Proof Fence

At its best, this fence ran from near Haddon Corner in the south-west of Queensland to Mungindi on the NSW border, and was mostly constructed before 1900. The intention was to keep the rabbits on the south side, but, like the WA fence, was not markedly successful. About 555 km of it remain, parts having been made dingo-proof.

3. The Dog Fence, also known as the Dingo Fence or the Wild Dog Fence

It runs from the Great Australian Bight to a little north-west of Brisbane, some 5400 km, and is one of the longest man-made structures in the world. It was constructed in piece-meal fashion over several decades from about 1947, using existing property fences where practical. It averages about 1.8 metres in height, including a section beneath the ground. It is well maintained by a series of maintenance crews who spend their time driving back and forth along the fence checking for problems, such as breaks, burnt posts, sand drifts, etc.

dog fence 2

The general idea is to keep dingos to the north of the fence, which is cattle country. Very few sheep live north of the fence. Kangaroo and emu populations are also smaller on the north side of the fence.

Dog Fence

The Dog Fence now runs through the village of Hungerford on the NSW/Queensland border. Back in 1892, there was already a section of the Queensland Rabbit-Proof Fence there. Hungerford was made famous by poet Henry Lawson’s short story “While the Billy Boils”, which you can read at https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/l/lawson/henry/while_the_billy_boils/book1.6.html .
He wrote the story after walking the 220 kms from Bourke to Hungerford, and made fun of his observation that there were numerous rabbits on both sides of the fence.

In 2002, a film called Rabbit-Proof Fence came out, portraying the story of three young aboriginal girls taken from their homes in Western Australia to be trained in “white” ways, who escape and walk home through hundreds of miles of bush and desert country, using the Fence as their guide. Highly recommended if you haven’t already seen it!

Many Australians were rather vague at the time as to where the Rabbit-Proof Fence was, and for that matter, whether it was something separate from the Dingo Fence. It was of course the WA Rabbit-Proof Fence.

Australia being a geographically large country, it’s not surprising that fences play a significant part in its history.

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About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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4 Responses to Don’t Fence Me In

  1. Chris Stephens says:

    Rob, did the rabbits pay for the fence? Just a little political humor , great article.

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Well, I’m sure that if the Donald had been around at the time, he’d have made sure that they did! But maybe the plan was to keep all the bad bunnies out, and make sure that all the cute little Easter bunnies stayed on our side.
      By the way, did you know that in Australia, the Easter bunny is being challenged by the Easter Bilby. Try a Google Image search on “Easter Bilby”.

  2. Ros says:

    Thanks Rob.,a good read. Rabbit Proof Fence is a terrific film. I loved the very final shots in particular.

  3. Lavinia Ross says:

    Thanks for the tip on the film, Rob. I’ll see if I can get it here.

    Fences like that generally don’t work too well, and are expensive to build and maintain. ‘Nuff said… 🙂

    I like the Easter Bilby!

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