The dearth of child support for single parent families in Menzies’ Australia resulted in Mark Opitz’ distressing displacement from his loving mother to the loveless and violent Margaret Marr Boys’ Home. The audio remnants of the weekly indulgence of a dormitory radiogram, and a determination to overcome feelings of worthlessness, inspired Mark to become as Jimmy Barnes notes, ‘one of the greatest record producers this country will ever create’. Not a day goes by where, somewhere in the world, you won’t hear a song produced by Mark Opitz. Following a suite of government inquiries into Australia’s out-of-home ‘care’ system, Mark’s story emerges as a formidable reminder of those who significantly contributed to a society that abandoned them as children.
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
Over 500,000 children in the 20th century experienced life in an orphanage, foster care or other institution. Approximately 50,000 were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children. 7,000 were Child Migrants. Over 440,000 children were non-Indigenous, domestic children, known as the ‘Forgotten Australians’ or ‘Care Leavers’. The Senate Report noted that the latter also suffered ill-treatment after being removed from families but have not, in their adulthood, received the equivalent recognition.
What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?
Forgotten Australians/Care Leavers are largely viewed through deficit discourse and subsequently their living history is largely kept private through the confidentiality of social service delivery. Eighty Twenty, through the life and work of award-winning music producer Mark Opitz, aims to exemplify the significant cultural contribution of Forgotten Australians, and to help secure their recognised place in Australia’s public history and policy making throughout a broad range of sectors.
What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?
• Increased awareness of Forgotten Australians, for example, in ‘water cooler’ conversations in work places.
• Film reviews in the media that link Mark Opitz’ life with his experience as a Forgotten Australian.
• Representation of Forgotten Australians in mainstream organisations throughout the public history sector.
• Visibility of the contributions of Forgotten Australians in the arts sector.
• Roll out of support programmes for those who have experienced out-of-home care.
• Forgotten Australians and Care Leavers to be included and understood in a range of public narratives and associated consensus history.
• Increased participation of Care Leavers in higher education (currently only represented at 1-3% of university students).
How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?
Eighty Twenty will provide information about Forgotten Australians that may not currently be known by prospective audience members. This documentary will comprise both qualitative and quantitative information about life for children on out-of-home care in both the 20 and 21st centuries. The qualitative component will be realised through narrative, specifically through an in-depth on-camera conversation with Mark Opitz, juxtaposed with relevant secondary source media material. Quantitative data will be presented accurately, concisely and intermittently through occasional text cards. These elements will be linked with music from Mark’s career. The information will be presented in a way that is emotionally engaging in order to support a call for action-based recognition for Forgotten Australians and Care Leavers.
How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?
This project has emerged following the film-maker's liaison with not-for-profits who support Forgotten Australians but more importantly with Forgotten Australians themselves, demonstrated by her successful collegial campaigning with former child inmates of an adult psychiatric facility in Queensland, securing ex-gratia payments for them after their having been overlooked by the Forde Inquiry. This project is also the outcome of committed and generous mentorship by Andrew Pike, Managing Director of Ronin Films. The project has strong links with the Australian National University (ANU) through the expertise of the film’s associate producers: Jamie Kidston, Manager, ANU Multimedia Communication and Production and Professor Samantha Bennett from the School of Music.
Audience Engagement and Social Impact
What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?
Eighty Twenty links the personal history of Mark Opitz with living history of Forgotten Australians and young people currently in the out-of-home care system. It also links the Australian rock musicians with working class history as well as childhood institutionalisation. This film aims to inspire audiences to continue the conversation and associated discourse both socially and as part of their own working lives, for example:
• the living history of Forgotten Australians to be taught in schools and be permanently exhibited in the major publicly funded museums throughout Australia
• Not for profits that provide support services for Forgotten Australians will organise their own screenings of Eighty Twenty for their members as a positive reminder of their grassroots activism and contribution to Australian culture
• That there may be a broader take up of programmes to support Care Leavers in making the transition to tertiary education.
Measurement and Evaluation
What is the projects indicators for success?
• Reviews and feature articles will be published in the media and they will describe Mark Opitz as a Forgotten Australian, thus giving public recognition to Mark’s connection with a hitherto, marginalised and wider history
• The screening of this film will prompt other key figures in Australian public life, who are Forgotten Australians or Care Leavers, to come forward and contribute to a much-needed public discourse
• The film will be used as professional development for public servants whose policy work impacts on those who have left ,or are currently in, the out-of-home care system
• Those Forgotten Australians who live in poverty and struggle with past injuries from their time in ‘care’ will perceive Mark as an allied figure with whom they share a common past history
• The voices and experiences of Care Leavers will be heard and respected and will also inform policy development in a range of sectors, including the arts and education, for example, (not just social services).