The movie is set in Melbourne in 1957. Nine year old Celia Carmichael (played by Rebecca Smart, who had already played a spanked girl in the 1987 TV mini-series The Shiralee) is a lonely and very imaginative girl. She fantasizes about evil creatures and other oddities to mask her insecurities. A series of traumatic events make things worse. She first finds her grandmother's dead body. Then she suffers from nightmares from a book read to her at school. When a new family moves in next door, things seem to lighten up as they have three children to play with; however her parents forbid Celia to associate with them because the new neighbours are communists. Finally, due to a national rabbit plague, the government orders a turning over of all domestic rabbits, and Celia's uncle confiscates her beloved pet rabbit. The rabbit dies in the Melbourne Zoo, and Celia explodes in violent revenge.
The spanking scenes
There are two spanking scenes in the movie. In the first, Celia sits waiting on a bench in a police office while her friends, the two neighbour's boys, get spanked (off screen, but audible) by Celia's uncle, a police officer. Alice Tanner, the boys' mother (Victoria Longley), comes in to pick up the children. Celia runs to hug her, seeking comfort, but Alice gives her one spank on the rear. The issue of the fight that got the children into trouble is discussed. Celia says they didn't start it, and Alice takes her home.
The second spanking scene begins when Celia is woken ungently by her father (Nicholas Eadie), holding two voodoo dolls in his hand. Celia had made these dolls together with her friends and thrown them through the neighbour's open window at night. First she pretends not to know the dolls, then she admits her participation. Her father opens the wardrobe and takes out a belt (seeing another voodoo doll on the inside of the wardrobe door). The then spanks Celia (still clad in her white nightwear) forcefully with the belt while she is standing bent over with her hands resting on the bed. Her uncle stands in a corner by the door watching. Celia is visibly in great pain but manages to keep from crying. The belting is stopped by her mother (Mary-Anne Fahey) who intervenes.