Oranges and Sunshine

Movie poster

Image via wikipedia

This is the movie that I saw at the weekend.  It was such that I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.  Click here to see the trailer.

I had heard of the government programme called Home Children and in fact, met a man in Toronto who, when gathering information for his own book on evacuation during the Second World War, had come across several of these deportees.

Book cover

My very tattered copy.

Ben Wicks, the man I met on a sunny afternoon sail in Toronto wrote the book “No Time To Say Goodbye” and that is a sorry account of a plan made with the best intentions that went horribly wrong.

The movie shows another plan that went horribly wrong.  It concentrates on those deported to Australia and follows the trials and tribulations of Margaret Humphreys a social worker from Nottingham in England as she brought to the public attention the British government programme of Home Children. This involved forcibly relocating poor British children to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa and often without their parents’ knowledge. Children were often told their parents had died, and parents were told their children had been placed for adoption elsewhere in the UK.  Margaret Humphreys believes that up to 150,000 children were resettled under the scheme,some as young as three, about 7,000 of whom were sent to Australia.

The movie shows how Humphreys was approached by a woman from Australia who had been sent away at age 4 and who wanted to find her mother.  This set Margaret Humphreys on the quest that was to take over her life.

In one scene, while Humphreys is celebrating Christmas in Australia with her family and friends she had made during her investigations, presents are distributed.  One person asks Margaret’s young son “What are you giving us for Christmas?” to which he replied “I’ve given you my mother.”

This is a movie showing the hard lives many of these children lived under the harsh conditions imposed by the Brothers at the Fairbridge Farm School.  Many of these children now into middle age, have joined together in a class action.  We are told  that  “65 former students of the Fairbridge Farm School began unprecedented court action, suing the organisation and the Federal and State Governments claiming they turned a blind eye to years of abuse.”

Author David Hill “The Forgotten Children”  who was an inhabitant of Fairbridge although for a short time as his mother reclaimed him said “It wasn’t until 2006, after teaming up with an old classmate to produce a book and documentary on Fairbridge, I learned of the horrific abuses many of the children had endured and the magnitude of their betrayal by the authorities.”

This isn’t an easy movie to watch but I urge you to see it if/when it comes to a theatre near you.


17 responses to “Oranges and Sunshine

  1. ordinarygoodness

    Thanks for letting me know about this movie Judith. In my family history study I have found at least one Home Child being shipped out of England to Canada. Apparently she had a happy ending, being taken in by kindly people and marrying into this family.
    So many however were so poorly treated. Thank goodness we have learnt more about the needs and care of children but there is still plenty of work to be done to ensure the wellbeing of the young.


    • What started as a perfectly good plan with the best intentions, went so terribly wrong for so many people. And only now are many of them facing what happened to them and telling about it. They will have their day in court but it cannot give them back their childhoods. Let’s hope we have learned from this dreadful lesson


  2. I remember seeing a documentary or two on this subject many years ago…. All these atrocities and then we wonder why the earth and many in the world are raging. History is a great teacher and we could all learn a lot about the present by delving into the past. Thanks for sharing this insightful movie. 🙂


    • Lives shattered by experiments that went so wrong. Hopefully we have learned from this. But how do those who lost their childhoods survive?


      • I am constantly amazed at how many adults who lost their childhoods have made their way in the world as hard working, law abiding citizens.

        The world is also full of rageful or depressed people who have suffered cruelly as children.

        We have much to learn. Movies such as this one are powerful catalysts in raising awareness and prompting action.

        I think people are constantly researching this area to work out what helps form resilience.


  3. Thanks for the heads up about this movie. Hope Netflix has it.


  4. okay, I’ll have to… now. I better buy a box of kleenex before seeing.


    • It was quite a disturbing movie. I hope that those people in the class action get some recompense although nothing will bring back their childhood. I didn’t need the kleenex. It was anger that I felt and sympathy for these folk.


  5. It certainly is a thought provoking movie. Hope you get to see it.


  6. I knew that some children had been sent out of England, but I had no idea all this transpired. We need to learn from history, as it does, indeed, repeat itself.


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  8. I will put this on my list of films to see. Thank you for letting us know about it.


    • i do hope you get to see it Robin. It is a disgraceful episode and must not be forgotten. Hopefully, those people in the class action will get some monetary recompense but who can give them back their childhoods?


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