Oranges and Sunshine

By Grania

A few weeks ago I wrote about a fundraising initiative supported by Tim Minchin to help Australian survivors of abuse perpetrated by Catholic clergy travel to Rome to witness the evidence given by Cardinal Pell about the extent to which the Church facilitated and protected the abusers.

Somewhere in the reading I did I came across the movie Oranges and Sunshine with Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving and David Wenham. The movie tells the true story of Margaret Humphreys who was a social worker and set up the Child Migrants Trust in Nottingham, UK once she discovered that there were many people in Australia who – now adults – wanted to trace their families. She could have had no clue as to the scale of what she would uncover, nor the damage that had been wreaked on children who would carry these brutal scars into adulthood and for the rest of their lives.

The scandal is not Australia’s alone, but rather that of the then British government who exported vulnerable children in care to Canada and Australia where they essentially became child slave labor. Many of them had been told they were orphaned even though they were not. Thousands of children were exported in this manner right up until 1967, with the government turning a blind eye to the fate of the children that they were “helping”  to a better life.

The ones who landed in Catholic orphanages such as Bindoon Boy’s Town, were particularly unfortunate. Rather than receiving what was no doubt advertised as superior care from their religious guardians, they were treated as slaves and used for hard manual labor. Many of them were raped and beaten savagely, and when they reached the age of maturity were told that they had to repay their “debt” of care. They were promised heaven on earth when they left the UK, and were sent to hell.


I highly recommend the film, it is neither sensationalist nor does it try to sentimentalise the survivors.  You can view the trailer here.


  1. Blue
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I have remembered this saga about which Ms Spingies writes for over, now, a decade and a half. 60 Minutes had a piece on it back in y1999, and it rocked my core:

    War – torn and impoverished British mamas had had to leave their kiddos with social agencies but thought, when they did so, that they would be coming back to collect their children — when they got back on their feet.

    When the mamas came back? They were told their children were dead! The children? The children were told that their mothers were dead! England’s royalty and Winston Churchill .knew. where the children actually were! = ONTO BOATS and OFF HALFWAY ‘ROUND THE GLOBE to Catholic men to be their slaves, both labor and sexual ones, in western Australia.

    Just one heartbreaking saga of the 60 Minutes – segment: an adult man of those childhood times, still in Australia, finally is able to track down his English mother, works and works and works to save up enough $ for passage to England to reunite with her, has the ticket and is to board the next morning … … when he gets that call that she has died that day.

    I don’t know if I can view this film cuz … …
    the injustice, the unfairness just rocks my core.


    • darrelle
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      I came to make the same comment. I don’t know if I can watch this film … …

      It seems to get harder all the time to not let my hate of the RCC in general to bleed over into hating RCC church members on an individual basis. I can’t muster any respect for anyone who knows anything about this kind of shit and remains an RCC member.

      • rickflick
        Posted March 17, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        I know RCC members who just seem to brush the shit off. They think it was just a relatively minor incident that happened years ago. One or two priests. Nothing to see here. Move along now.
        The Church is so much more that that, they will say. Probably a few drop out of the cult, but not many. And if they do they are likely to look for a protestant denomination to satisfy their religious compulsion.

  2. rickflick
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I’d hesitate to see the film because I’m not sure I could sit through it without retching. The more I learn about that horrible institution the angrier I get. Spotlight is another film along these lines. Another cardinal, Cardinal Law was the villain in that one.

    Congratulations to Minchin. What a great project he’s started.

    I remember George Pell in a debate with Richard Dawkins a few years ago. He was pretty awful. I didn’t know at the time what a nasty piece of work he is.

    • Posted March 17, 2016 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      To give credit where it is due, he didn’t start the campaign. He merely leant his voice to it, and because of his relative fame that meant a great deal of attention was finally given to the existing campaign.


      • rickflick
        Posted March 17, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        Got it.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      Remember in that debate when Pell spoke of “preparing a boy”. It was in reference to an innocuous matter but the audience groaned and moaned and he fobbed it off.

      I once worked with a catholic guy who knew of Pell’s knowledge of theses things 20 or more years ago.

      • rickflick
        Posted March 17, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

        Very disturbing. But, I’m not surprised.

  3. Randy Schenck
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I really think it would be a good thing to run this film as a double feature with Spotlight. Get everything in the history of this religion out into the open air. A fresh look.

    • sshort
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Massively good idea.

  4. Posted March 17, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Another horrible tragedy. 😦

  5. darrelle
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I can not really understand how so many people can treat children, or allow them to be treated, so poorly, though I am aware that doing so has been very common throughout human history. And, albeit not necessarily to this extent, it is still a problem anywhere you care to look, even in your neighborhood in the US.

    At least it certainly is in mine. In fact it seems to be a rare thing to come across someone who doesn’t routinely treat children much worse than they would another adult, let alone in a way they would expect to be treated. And yet we so often hear how children are so precious.

    People often exclaim to me how great my children are about interacting with adults and how great they are with other children of any age. It’s simply because I’ve treated them like human beings from the day they were born instead of indentured 2nd class servants.

  6. Michael Scullin
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Here in Iowa there is considerable irony in the commercials now running on television from “catholicscomehome” – with all the truly magnificent art and architecture as a background for the pleading. In northwest Iowa the regional diocese has just closed some 60 churches for want of parishioners.

    Many years ago one of my students, a Viet Nam combat vet and brilliant student, walked away from the church with his soon to be wife when the church declined to marry them because they had been living together. Churchless and anticatholic they lived happily ever after.

    • Randy Schenck
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      Sounds like good news all around. I believe you had a larger population of Catholics there in the northern part of Iowa. Down here in the south west we have everything else. About 15 churches in a town of less than 5000. Lots of the anti-catholics or what we call Lutherans.

    • Blue
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Aren’t these — — just wretch – worthy?! ALL of them?!

      I started noticing them airing in central Iowa — and, in particular, nota bene the specific television programs (among these the longstandingly popular Wheel of Fortune!) which are ‘sponsored’ by any one of these catholicscomehome commercial spots — about two months ago.

      I have to look away and put the screen on mute. Always.

      Are, to me, all of them … … just angering!

      • Randy Schenck
        Posted March 17, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

        Amazing…I had no idea. I can only guess that because we get TV out of Omaha, Nebraska we have escaped this, at least so far. Kind of odd, because Omaha has a big Catholic population as well.

        No wonder TV is losing it’s views – this stuff is sickening.

  7. Posted March 18, 2016 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I imagine this has already been mentioned (I didn’t read all the comments); but Spotlight is a terrific movie. I highly recommend it. Also Philomena, on having one’s child stolen from one by the Catholic church in Ireland.

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