Ok, so I admit I should have written about this before it happened, so’s any regulars here might join in if they cared to, but meh, I’ve been busy.
And in any case, re-read the title, Jan Logie has got a great team helping her in Mana electorate, and it showed at the Lighthouse Cinema in Pauatahanui, that semi-rural community north of Wellington famous for preserving a fabulous wetlands area which NZTA now want to drive Transmission Gully straight through.
So, as we all scuttled from our various means of transport through the rain into the cinema, there was a Green info stall with some posters and leaflets, also selling last-minute tickets for the early evening showing of Oranges and Sunshine.
Jan spoke briefly just before we watched the movie, highlighting Green policy around poverty and families, and then we settled down for this directorial outing by Ken Loache’s son Jim; as much of a reason to watch the film as anything else, IMNSHO.
The original book by Nottingham social worker Margaret Humphreys was the result of the events you see in the film, as she uncovered to her horror the evidence of mass, forced migrations of underpriviledged children in the 50’s and 60’s, with the active collusion of both the UK and Australian Governments.
Her book Empty Cradles caused a furore at the time, but as the title sequence acknowledges at the end of the film, it took 23 years after she pieced the facts together for those Governments to apologise to the children who were removed from families into care, and then spirited half a world away while their parents tried to get employment, housing and debts under control.
It certainly makes you think about our current social welfare provisions, particularly those around fostering, adoption and the provisions in law for making children at risk wards of the state. I for one came out of the session in mild shock, and considering carefully the phrase ‘let s/he who is without sin throw the first stone’ … for the judgemental nature of those upper-middle class civil servants in the UK was a very big part of this action, which can only be framed as class war, misogyny and extreme cruelty to parents and children alike.
For anyone interested in the subject of forced removals of children for adoptions in NZ, there is an excellent book on the subject by Dr Anne Else, A question of adoption : closed stranger adoption in New Zealand, 1944-1974, which gives very good background to the shaming of mothers, then-current protections in law so that paternity could not be stated for illegitimate children, particularly if the father was already married, and other grounds under which young women were deemed to be unfit to bring up their children. This was published in 1991 by Bridget Williams books, and should be available in the WCC libraries as well as holdings in the VUW libraries.
The Listener had coincidentally given this film a very good review (by film reviewer Helene Wong) just last week, so the final tally of attendees may have been boosted unwittingly by their aid – Jan is seen speaking in the larger of the two cinemas, but we had screenings in both available cinemas, such was the demand.
I thoroughly recommend both that you see this movie, either as it screens around the country or at some future date on DVD, and also that you see a movie in one of the Lighthouse Cinemas scattered around Wellington region – Petone has one as well as Pauatahanui – and I’d generally say that the experience of seeing movies in smaller, local cinemas has a lot going for it. Wellington particularly has had a resurgence in small cinemas dating back to the re-opening of the Empire Cinema in Island Bay a few years ago, and most recently the refurbished Roxy Cinema in Park Rd, Miramar owned by Sir Peter Jackson, but one of the few he owns which is open to the general public.
Lastly, I’d like to thank every professional social worker who deals with families day-to-day – it is an unremittingly stressful job, as the central character in this film shows viscerally. You are women (and some men, too) who are truly worth your weight and more in gold, and heroes and heroines for all the children whose lives are touched and strengthened by your support.