Saturday, 4 June 2011

Oranges and Sunshine

The Child Migrants Trust.
In 1986 a Nottingham social worker involved in post-adoption support was contacted by a women from Australia who told her that at the age of four she had been shipped, along with other children, to a children’s home in Australia and was now looking for help in tracing her parents in Britain. This was the beginning of Margaret Humphreys investigation into a situation that she had no idea had taken place. Home Children is the common term used to describe the British governments child migration programme that involved forcibly relocating poor and under privileged children to Australia, Canada, New Zealand the former Rhodesia and other parts of what was the British Commonwealth. Often the parents had no idea that their offspring was being deported being told that they were being placed for adoption in the UK, the children were often informed that their parents were dead. Humphreys believes that up to 150,000 children were involved in the scheme with approximately 7000 ending up in Australia, some of the kids were as young as three years old! Then as now with government cutbacks aimed at the more vulnerable members of our society the motive behind the policy was saving money. It was cheaper to care for these very young migrants overseas. The cost was estimated at £5 per day to keep a child on welfare in a British institution, but only the equivalent of 50p in an Australian one. Many of the children experienced neglect and abuse particularly, it is alleged, in certain Catholic institutions run by the so-called Christian Brothers where many of the children were housed.
Children on their way to a better life!!!!!!!!

The treatment of these children brings to mine certain aspects of the Holocaust or the inhuman treatment of the Aboriginal children depicted in the Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) not forgetting the Magdalene laundries when Peter Mullan pulled at our collective consciences with The Magdalene Sisters (2002)

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Oranges and Sunshine (2010) is based on Margret Humphreys book Empty Cradles and tells the story of the formation and early struggles of the Child Migrants Trust, at times against overwhelming odds and with little regard to her own well being or safety. Emily Watson gives a brilliant performance as Humphreys, highlighting the women’s courage and compassion, and there’s great support from Hugo Weaving and David Wenham as grown up migrant children. Jim Loach is a welcome addition to the ranks of British directors that can make a serious heartfelt drama. Its not an easy watch, constantly pulling at your heartstrings, but exceptionally well done and tremendously moving, revelling a scandal that had been swept under the carpet by successive governments on both sides of the world. My own Uncle was deported to Australia when he was 13/14 years old, admittedly a long time before the period in which Loach's film is based, and rediscovered his family many years later!

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