1998, 52 Minutes
Little Brother, Little Sister tells the story of the Lows, an Australian family living in Sydney, who adopt Ethiopian orphan brother and sister, Sisay and Eleni. They already have two teenage boys — one is their biological son and the other was adopted as a baby from Papua New Guinea.
Anne and Steve Low are nervous as they fly to Addis Ababa to pick up their new son and daughter, because they know very little about them. When they do meet Eleni (5) and Sisay (7), the children are silent, confused and wide-eyed. Eleni runs to her Ethiopian foster mother for comfort. “Don’t cry,” the woman says, “this is the best solution.”
During their visit the Lows also meet the children’s 19-year-old sister Bizunesh, who was forced to put up her youngest siblings for adoption after their parents died, but elected to keep their nine-year-old brother Alemayehu with her. The Lows are visibly moved by her situation and vow to keep in touch and assist in any possible way.
Several weeks after arriving in Australia the children’s personalities start to change. Soon Eleni is the extrovert and has the run of the house. Meanwhile Sisay becomes more reserved as he deals with the profound changes to his daily life in Sydney — both the cultural dislocation and finding his place within the family.
Brother and sister begin to experience harmony and friendship within their new Australian family. It is a slow process, painful and imperfect, but ultimately uplifting when two years later their brother Alemayehu is also adopted into the extended family.
Filmed over a two-year period and using an observational style, it also shows how Eleni and Sisay deal with the profound changes to their lives. They bring with them memories of a tragic personal history but they also bring their own vibrant sense of family, friendship and community.
Australian Film Finance Corporation & Alfred Road Films Pty Ltd. Distributed by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Growing Up and Going Home Alemayehu, Sisay and Eleni are three young Ethiopians who were adopted in the mid 1990s by an extended Australian family. At the time, part of that life-changing experience was recorded in an award-winning documentary, Little Brother, Little Sister.
Director/Writer: Belinda Mason
Producer: Gaby Mason
Running Time: 52 Minutes
Classification: Exempt from classification
Curriculum Links: Early Childhood Education; Family Studies; Health & Personal Development; PDHPE; HPE; Human Services; Cultural and Intercultural Studies; Immigration, EnglishK-10 'Cultural, Social and Gender Perspectives', 'Identity, Place and Culture'; Loss and Grief Studies.
Winner, Arts - Non-Fiction Television, Human Rights Medal and Awards.