In 2012 my sister Antonia Riviere and I were visiting fellows at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. We were there researching Australian clothes rationing during World War 2. We were interested in how film had been used to support the government’s austerity drive, whether Australians been encouraged to ‘make do and mend’ like their British counterparts, and how could we use our own making to explore these and other questions.
While we were in Canberra we interviewed several people with experiences of Australian clothes rationing. Barbara Stanilewisc (who we were introduced to by Lynne Johnson), gathered a couple of her friends together to talk to us, Patsy Curnow and Ruth Rodgers.
Barbara and Patsy have been friends since they were very young; and it turned out, to our amazement, that Ruth was none other than the daughter of John Dedman, the Minister of War Organization of Industry between 1941 and 1945, the inspiration for our fellowship project title.
Writing our application for the NFSA fellowship we had found a film listed in the online catalogue describing John Dedman arriving in Melbourne wearing a victory suit. Although we had no way of watching the film at that point, we called our project ‘Mr Dedman’s Victory Suit’ because we found the film title so intriguing. It turned out to be a newsreel about John Dedman modeling the suit he had had designed during the war to save labour and materials.
Here is a short clip of the interview with Barbara Stanilewisc, Patsy Curnow and Ruth Rodgers