The Sapphires


The Sapphires is inspired by the real-life story of four indigenous women who regularly sang together in their community during the 1960s and 1970s. It was during this time that they toured Vietnam, singing to American troops during the Vietnam War.


For more information about the original story why not read the article The Sapphires: where are they now?


There is also a study guide available for the movie.


This film explores the issues of the time period, the 1960s. Below are some of the issues or concepts.

  • Stolen Generation
  • Civil rights movement
  • Vietnam War

The Stolen Generation


Not that long ago, from the early 1900s through to the late 1960s, it was government policy in Australia to remove Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. This was done uner an assimilation policy where it was believed that children who were not "full blood" should be integrated into the white society. These children are known today as the Stolen Generation.


Children were taken to government, religious, or welfare institutions all over Australia. Some were taken a long way from their homes and placed with children from other regions and language groups - many children never saw their families again. Some of the very young children did not discover their Indigenous background until they were adults.

Saffioti, T. (2011). Stolen girl. Magabala Books.

9781925163131.jpg A young Aboriginal girl is taken from the north of Australia and sent to an institution in the distant south. There, she slowly makes a new life for herself and, in the face of tragedy, finds strength in new friendships.
3288562.jpg Set in Sydney, 1937, this is the fictional diary of a young Aboriginal girl, a member of the Stolen Generation.

She is given the diary by the Sister in charge of Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home and through its pages she describes her life - from her arrival there, aged five, through her struggle to understand why she was taken from her real mother, to her adoption at ten years of age by a white Catholic family in St.Ives.

Mary Talence, birth name Amy Charles, is increasingly confused - and then ashamed - as she is taught that white skinned is good, black skinned is bad. She longs to understand why this is so but finds that logical questions - almost any questions - provoke anger and accusations of ingratitude from her white family.


The Burnt Stick is the story of a young Australian aboriginal boy, John Jagamarra, who was taken from his mother by the Welfare Department, and sent to the Fathers at the Pearl Bay Mission. All through his childhood, John remembered the life of the camp at Dryborough Station and the good trick his mother, Liyan, played with a stick burnt in the fire when the Big Man came looking for John. She rubbed the black charcoal into his skin to make John seem darker than he really was - too dark to be taken away.

Twice she got away with it. But the third time...


This picture book is a fictionalised account that tells of an Aboriginal girl taken from her family and sent to a children's home. Each night she sings, and dreams of her mother and the life they once shared - of sitting on the verandah of their corrugated-iron home, cooking damper and hunting goanna.

But each morning she is woken by the bell to the harsh reality of the children's home, until finally one day she puts into action her carefully crafted plan - unlocking the door and taking her first step back toward home.


When Gracie, Daisy and Molly are taken from their mother and sent away to the Moore River Settlement, thousands of miles from their home country, they decide to escape. But when the only way home is along a rabbit-proof fence, and you're being chased by the police, escaping is just the start of your adventure.


Younger readers' version of Follow the rabbit-proof fence.



Civil rights movement


9781925126365.jpg There's no hiding from prejudice.

Robbie knows bad things happen in Walgaree. But it's nothing to do with him. That's just the way the Aborigines have always been treated.

In the summer of 1965 racial tensions in the town are at boiling point, and something headed Walgaree's way will blow things apart. It's time for Robbie to take a stand. Nothing will ever be the same.

s-l400.jpg This book looks at the life of Martin Luther King Jr., pastor of a small Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama, who became the driving force of the civil rights movement when he led a black boycott of the city’s bus lines. His philosophy of nonviolence, and his breathtaking eloquence, helped free African Americans from decades of oppression and finally won them the rights—and opportunities—they deserved.
9781402748653.jpg She just wouldn’t get up and with that simple, courageous act Rosa Parks struck a blow against injustice. Parks showed what one person, without guns or violence, could do to change the course of history forever. On December 1, 1955, she made a stand on a Montgomery, Alabama bus when she refused to relinquish her seat for a white man. Her arrest mobilized the black community for a citywide bus boycott that led to a landmark Supreme Court decision.

Vietnam War


death-coming-up-the-hill.jpg It's 1968, and war is not foreign to seventeen-year-old Ashe. His dogmatic, racist father married his passionate peace-activist mother when she became pregnant with him, and ever since, the couple, like the situation in Vietnam, has been engaged in a "senseless war that could have been prevented."

When his high school history teacher dares to teach the political realities of the war, Ashe grows to better understand the situation in Vietnam, his family, and the wider world around him. But when a new crisis hits his parents' marriage, Ashe finds himself trapped, with no options before him but to enter the fray.


Humans are about to leave footprints on the moon, but what sort of mark can one girl make here on earth?

It's 1969 and life is changing fast. Sharnie Burley is starting high school and finding it tough to make new friends. As the world waits to see if humans will land on the moon, the Vietnam War rages overseas. While her little cousin, Lewis, makes pretend moon boots, young men are being called up to fight, sometimes without having any choice in the matter. Sometimes without ever coming home.

Dad thinks serving your country in a war is honourable, but when Sharnie's older sister, Cas, meets a returned soldier and stars getting involved in anti-war protests, a rift in their family begins to show. Sharnie would usually turn to her grandma for support, but lately Gran's been forgetting things.

Can she find her own way in this brave new world?

vietnam-diary.jpg Leigh and Jason are inseparable. But when Jason is conscripted and sent to fight in Vietnam, they are divided not just by distance, but by their beliefs about the war.