Australian Story: Apr 15

Australian Story profiles the family of directors Jocelyn Moorhouse and PJ Hogan.

“The Kids are Alright” is narrated by Cate Blanchett.

When movie directors Jocelyn Moorhouse and PJ Hogan celebrated the arrival of their second child, Lily, they were riding high. The success of their first movies, Proof and Muriel’s Wedding, had catapulted them into Hollywood’s A-list and they now had a little sister for six-year-old Spike.

“We had really, really made it,” Moorhouse tells Australian Story. “Our careers were successful, our family was perfect – one boy, one girl.”

But it would be 18 years before Jocelyn Moorhouse directed another movie. This week’s Australian Story explains why.

Around the time she turned two, Lily began to change. She stopped making eye contact, shunned physical contact and started having screaming fits. “It was like we had a hurricane in the house,” recalls her brother Spike. “And we all just had to make the best of taming the hurricane.”

Eventually Lily was diagnosed with severe autism. As Moorhouse was the only one who seemed to get through to Lily, she realised she would have to abandon her career to become Lily’s full-time therapist and carer.

After six years of intensive therapy, Lily was doing well enough for Moorhouse to consider a return to filmmaking and, in 2004, she agreed to direct the Australian movie Eucalyptus. But days before filming was to start, the movie was cancelled due to disagreements over the script.

Moorhouse was devastated but worse was to come. Within months, the couple’s 18-month-old son Jack also began to exhibit signs of autism.

“Lily if anything brought us closer together,” Hogan tells Australian Story. “Jack almost destroyed us. Because we didn’t expect it to be twice. We just thought, that’s not fair.”

As Moorhouse threw herself into Lily and Jack’s therapy, her film career seemed a distant memory. But she hadn’t been forgotten and in 2015, 18 years after her last movie, she made a triumphant return with The Dressmaker.

Now the couple’s focus is on securing a future for Lily and Jack that allows them to continue their careers while ensuring their other children, Spike and Maddy, are free to pursue their dreams.

In this intimate portrait, the family speaks candidly about the challenges, heartbreak and unexpected joys of living with two severely autistic children. They talk of the sacrifices they have willingly made and the long journey of acceptance that has led them to embrace Lily and Jack for who they are.

“Once you start getting to know them your fear slides away and you’re just like a parent of any kid,” Moorhouse says. “We’re no longer frightened of autism. In fact, we’re very fond of autism.”

Producer: Greg Hassall

Monday, April 15 at 8pm on ABC.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.