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Legendary Australian actor, Jack Thompson (b. 1940), was in kinship and foster care before he was adopted. 

Jack Thompson was born John Hadley Pain in Manley, New South Wales. His mother died when he was four years old. At the time, his father was away from Australia serving in the merchant navy. 

I remember she went to hospital and didn’t come back. And then my aunt took me and my brother, now deceased, to… this wonderful school at Narrabeen (ABC News).  

It was at the Lake House School in Narrabeen that Jack made friends with Peter Thompson, whose family later adopted Jack. Peter describes Jack as a child:

Jack was a born actor. He was the king of the kids. They were all drawn to him and he loved to make up stories and read to them (Sydney Morning Herald). 

By then Harold, Jack’s father, had remarried and moved to Western Australia so Jack spent holidays and weekends with Peter and his family.  

I’d become involved in a great friendship with Peter Thompson…we played the same games, we talked the same talk. I used to go to his place…my life then became the life of Peter’s best friend (ABC News). 

Jack went to live with the Thompson family when he was eight, and was officially adopted by them when he was ten. 

Jack attended Sydney Boys High for his secondary education but left at the age of fourteen. He became a jackaroo on a cattle station in the Northern Territory for a number of years, later taking up other working-class jobs such as working on the railways. 

Jack began attending Queensland University in 1966. While at university, he became involved in drama, and started auditioning for television shows. 

Jack Thompson has been a significant figure in the Australian film industry for more than sixty years. He has had leading roles in iconic Australian films such as Sunday Too Far Away ( 1975 – AFI (Australian Film Industry) Award for Best Actor), Breaker Morant (1980 – AFI Award for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor at Cannes Film Festival), The Man from Snowy River (1982) and The Sum of Us (1994). He has also appeared in international films including Star Wars II (2002) and the Great Gatsby (2013).

Jack Thompson has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the Australian Film Industry (1986), Living Legend Inside Film Awards (2005) and he was inducted into the Australian Film Walk of Fame in 2011.  

Jack Thompson uses his popularity to promote refugee and Indigenous issues. For example, he spread awareness about Cambodian refugees by producing a documentary as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, and in 1991, he helped establish Krousar Thmey, an NGO for underprivileged children. The Jack Thompson Foundation was established in 2008 with the aim of “assisting Indigenous Australians to create shelter appropriate to Indigenous Community need.”


Barrett, Dan. “Interview: Jack Thompson is focused on being involved in life.” SBS, 17 December 2018.  

“History.” The Jack Thompson Foundation.

“Jack’s back.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 June 2005. 

“Jack Thompson.” UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency, 2022.

“One Plus One: Jack Thompson.” ABC News, 20 April 2017. 

Image available here.