June 3, 2011
INGLEBURN resident John Hennessey confronted the demons of his past and rubbed shoulders with the stars when he attended the premiere of Oranges and Sunshine last month.
The movie, which opens nationally at cinemas on Thursday , tells the story of 500,000 British child migrants who found themselves institutionalised in orphanages and homes in Australia between 1930 and 1970.
Mr Hennessey’s mother, May Mary, was just a child herself when she handed her little boy over to the Sisters of Nazareth in Bristol, believing he would go to a good home.
Instead he was put in an orphanage, was told his mother had died and was shipped to Australia. He spent seven years at the Christian Brothers’ Boys Town in Bindoon, Western Australia, where he was regularly beaten and abused.
Oranges and Sunshine stars Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving and David Wenham with the aim of telling the child migrants’ story on a global level.
Mr Hennessey attended the premiere and said he had tears in his eyes for most of the feature. “It brought back a lot of memories and I felt I was there in the movie itself,” he said.
“The movie showed many of the places I was at as a child and was very confronting, but is a film all members of the family should see because it could have happened to anyone. It’s not sensationalised, it’s very personal and when it was over I thought it was too short despite being an hour-and-a-half long.”
Mr Hennessey said Hugo Weaving and Emily Watson had both spoken to him at the premiere. “Hugo Weaving said; ‘what you poor guys went through, I can’t even imagine it but you’re all survivors’,” Mr Hennessey said. “This film has vindicated our campaign for 40 years that this tragedy happened because most people just didn’t want to know about us.”