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Oranges and Sunshine: movie review

The little-known story of British children shipped to Australia is powerful, though occasionally the film gets too close to the mood of a TV movie.

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Hugo Weaving (l.) and Emily Watson star in the film ''Oranges and Sunshine,' based on a story from England and Australia's past.

Courtesy of Cohen Media Group

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Like many, I suspect, in the moviegoing audience, I was unaware until I saw "Oranges and Sunshine" of a great government-sanctioned social scandal. Thousands of children in the mid-20th century were unjustly deported from Britain to Australia.

The children – almost all of whom were white, because the Australians were interested in "good white stock" – were separated from their parents, who were usually poor and deemed temporarily unfit to care for them. Kids as young as 4 were then told their parents had died. The parents, in turn, were informed, wrongly, that their children had been placed in foster homes and adopted by "better" families. In fact, they were shipped to Australia, where they were told they would be able to ride horses to school and romp in the land of "oranges and sunshine."

The reality was far different. Many were put to work as illegal laborers in church-sponsored institutions, the most notorious being the remote Roman Catholic orphanage in Bindoon, where physical and sexual abuse by the elders was reportedly rampant.

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