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Development   /  Jenny Day


Six British orphans arrive in Australia in 1948 hoping for a "new and better life".


Impact areas





  • DIRECTOR Kerreen Ely-Harper

  • PRODUCER Jenny Day



On June 24th 1948 the SS Ormond docked at Railway Pier in Port Phillip Bay. Amongst its passengers were 250 British children who had arrived, without parents or family, to begin “a new and better life” in Australia. Within that number were six orphaned brothers and sisters: Jayne Harper 20, James 17, John 15, Betty 12, David 10 and Margaret 6. John is my father, the others my aunts and uncles.
My father's story came in bits and pieces that didn't add up. The death of both his parents led to a childhood interrupted by trauma, poverty and migration. A curious child now adult I began asking questions about the past to uncover a difficult family history.

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0% funded
  • $120,000.00

  • $0.00

  • April 2020

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

The film follows the legacies of childhoods affected by family separation and breakdown as well as geographical and cultural displacement. It explores issues that affect many young people and families in contemporary Australian society. The death of a parent is a subject under-represented on our screens. To know our parents' story is to understand our cultural identity.
The film gives voice to those of us who inherit the legacies of transgenerational trauma: trauma within families that is passed from and between family members until someone in the present asks questions about the past - "tell me what happened?"
Through an affecting and accessible story we aim to create awareness and education around the issue of family bereavement and separation. And to encourage and inspire a wide audience to understand the role those with the least agency in society - poor children and children placed in institutional care - have played in Australia's social and cultural history.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

The film will raise awareness and educate audiences about the circumstances that have shaped the lives of former child migrants and the long term impact of childhood trauma and family. By engaging audiences emotionally with the Harpers' story the film will ask them to consider and empathise with the plight of child migrants and children at risk in the world today and invite them to advocate for change and improved service initiatives in the family, child welfare and government sectors.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

"Close to the Bone" will aim to inform the debate about how we care for children who have experienced family loss and separation. And to provide insight into how the experience of former British migrants can inform service providers and educators in the adoption, child and family welfare sectors develop programs to assist young people in vulnerable circumstances.
The film could also be used as a trigger to promote discussions on its key themes in a range of community health, welfare, aged care and educational settings. Educators and service providers will be directed to the film's website and accompanying study guide and workshop kit.
Above all, the film will offer the opportunity to those who have experienced interrupted childhoods to tell their stories to improve their social and emotional health and well-being. The film will invite and promote collaboration between generations to share their stories and draw inspiration and confidence from each other.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

By partnering with organisations and foundations that have a common interest in the themes of the film - child welfare, migration, family relations, social connectedness and cultural identity - we aim to access their communities, raise awareness and engage a broad audience who will help us advocate for change.
As filmmakers we will also engage an impact producer who will ensure the film reaches and affects the widest possible audience in cinemas, on television, online and within relevant community groups.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

Relationships Australia and Find and Connect have committed to working with us when the film is completed to maximise our audience and impact. We also plan to engage with Barnardos, The Child Migrant Trust and various mental health and child welfare professionals and advocacy organisations such as Adopt Change. We seek their participation as key speakers at the Q&A sessions that will follow "event" workshop and conference screenings, generating discussion and debate around the issues the film raises. Through their websites they can also offer wide exposure via social media and outreach programs designed for their particular community.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

By generating discussion and debate around the issues the film raises we aim to raise awareness and encourage audiences to advocate for change at a personal, institutional and government level.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

The film's impact reach will be measured through audience numbers and responses at festival and community screenings and discussions that follow these screenings. We will employ social capture initiatives, such as recording responses at live and streamed events via audience feedback sheets, online forums and Facebook pages. We will measure the success of our digital distribution by the number of hits and download usage patterns.
The audience responses will provide our not-for-profit and education partners with knowledge about the needs and priorities of their communities on issues raised in the film and assist them in developing outreach programs.