Oranges and Sunshine is an extraordinary movie of a modern day humble hero – Margaret Humphreys – who uncovered a horrendous secret shared by the governments of the UK, Australia, and Canada until 2010.
Margaret (Emma Watson) was a social worker in Nottingham who accidentally uncovered the organised mass deportation of more than 130,00 children to Australia as late as 1970. These children, who were given into care by single mothers who were ashamed to publicly acknowledge they had a child out of marriage, were told their mothers had died and that they would be better off starting a new life in Australia – a land of oranges and sunshine. Until Mrs Humphreys started to delve into the case of one of these children who came to her for help in finding her mother, this mass “migration” program was not publicly known. Working against incredible odds including threats on her life and government resistance, Margaret persisted and exposed one of the most embarrassing cover-ups of our age.
Oranges and Sunshine is a compelling, moving story told without sensationalism. While the movie, at one point, feels like it is going to get bogged down, it quickly recovers and carries the viewer on an emotional journey that leaves us speechless that such a thing could happen in a civilised society. These children were used as slave labour, abused, and suffered the loss of their identities with no concern for their welfare – although it was all done in the name of helping. Emma Watson is very good as the social worker thrust into this journey and she is well-supported by great Australian actors Hugo Weaving and David Wenham. I initially thought that using well-known actors would spoil the power of the story – but it wasn’t long before I forgot that as I was caught in the web of the story.
There may be some flaws in the movie – but these flaws should be overlooked and everyone should see this incredible story which demonstrates that even our own “civilised” societies can easily fall into rationalised evil in the name of good. Don’t miss it.
Opens in Australia on 9 June.