The Henderson Kids, series 1 episode 2

The Henderson Kids, series 1 episode 2
Crawford Productions Pty LtdAustralian Children’s Television Foundation
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Kylie Minogue in her first lead role as Charlotte 'Char' Kernow. This series also starred Ben Mendelsohn and Nadine Garner, and premiered on Network Ten on 11 May 1985. 

In their local café hangout, the gang drink Coke, chat and play pinball. Ted Morgan (Ben Mendelsohn), son of a striking mill worker, looks forward to the ‘fireworks’ which will result from a walk-out at the mill owned by Wheeler. Cowboy (Mark Hennessy) advises Ted not to get involved before Pat (Antoinette Byron) kicks the teenagers out of the café. Summary by Tammy Burnstock.

Not afraid to create realistic drama in a children’s program, this clip again demonstrates a brave portrayal of Australian life in the 1980s. The Henderson Kids also features early performances from a veritable who’s who of Australian acting talent. Appearing in this clip alone are Kylie Minogue, Ben Mendelsohn, Nadine Garner and Antoinette Byron.

Kylie Minogue’s television breakthrough came in 1986 on Neighbours. Ben Mendelsohn, then 15 years old, followed his debut performance in The Henderson Kids with other television work before breaking into films with his AFI award-winning performance in The Year My Voice Broke (1987).

This was also the first major TV role for 13-year-old Nadine Garner, who won an AFI Award the year after Mendelsohn, for Mull (1988). She continues to work extensively in theatre, film and television. Antoinette Byron’s credits include Neighbours, Home and Away (1987–current), The Bold and the Beautiful (1987–current), Baywatch (1989–2001) and Melrose Place (1992–99).

The Henderson Kids - Series 1 Episode 2 synopsis

The second part of a two-part episode, originally screened as one. When their mother (Diane Craig) dies in an accident, 13-year-old Tamara ‘Tam Bam’ (Nadine Garner) and 15-year-old Steve Henderson (Paul Smith) move from the city to live with their uncle, ‘Copper’ Mike (Nicholas Eadie), in the small timber milling seaside town of Haven Bay.

In this episode the teenagers learn of their mother’s brave accidental death and, with no way of contacting their absent father, reluctantly leave their city life for an inhospitable Haven Bay. They arrive to find a town in turmoil with labour unrest and hostile local kids. In the background, the entrepreneurial aspirations of evil mill owner and would-be developer Mr Wheeler (Peter Whitford) are revealed.

The Henderson Kids - Series 1 Episode 2 curator's notes

This episode features a who’s who of Australian talent including then teenage Kylie Minogue, Ben Mendelsohn and Nadine Garner. Produced by Alan Hardy, who went on to produce successful children’s series The Wayne Manifesto (1997) and Fergus McPhail (2004), and created and written by Roger Moulton, The Henderson Kids is not afraid to shy away from real issues and emotions.

This opening episode features a functional single-parent family in a story about the emotional as well as social repercussions of the death of a parent. The program also features the strong positive sibling relationship which exists between Steve and his rebellious younger sister Tam. The performances of Diane Craig and Nicolas Eadie as, respectively, a struggling single parent and a young man responding to the death of his sister, reflect the realistic complexity of emotions and relationships in the episode and series.

The program also reflects Executive producer Hector Crawford’s belief in presenting Australian stories on screen for Australian audiences. Crawford was a prominent figure in the ongoing campaign for local content regulations on Australian television. Hit series made by Crawford Productions include Homicide (1964–76), The Sullivans (1976–83), The Flying Doctors (1986–93) and The Saddle Club (2001–09).

Twelve one-hour episodes of The Henderson Kids were produced over two series. The episodes were also re-versioned and released as 24 half-hour episodes. In series one, the siblings continue to navigate the evil Wheeler and his plans, while gradually making friends with the gang and learning to love the country and their new life. In the second series, set in the fictional bayside suburb of Westport, Steve and Tamara are living in the city again with their father and are involved with a new gang of friends.

This was Kylie's first lead, following small roles in The Sullivans and Skyways. She was, at the time, better known as the older sister of Young Talent Time's Danielle Minogue. Her character (along with the rest of the Haven Bay gang) was written off in the second season, as the Henderson siblings move back to the city. Minogue would soon be cast in Neighbours, and the rest is history.

Both Ben Mendelsohn and Nadie Garner won the AFI Award within the next three years, for The Year My Voice Broke (1987) and Mull (1988) respectively.

This episode was broadcast on the Ten Network on 11 May 1985.

Notes by Tammy Burstock.

Chris Langham
Alan Hardy
Associate producer:
Michael Lake
Roger Moulton
Garry McDonald
Kylie Minogue
Nadine Garner
Paul Smith
Ben Mendelsohn
Mark Hennessy
Brain :
Bradley Kilpatrick