Bread and Dripping

Australian Workers Film Guide


With candor and poignancy, four working class women recount the hardships and deprivations of the Great Depression as they struggled to survive and feed their families in the face of mass unemployment and eviction. An enduring symbol of hunger and extreme poverty, bread and dripping was a meager meal consisting of bread dipped in left over fat.

Inspired by the Sydney’s Women’s Film Group of the 70s and 80s, a small band of young women film makers formed the Wimmins Films production company to produce what would become a classic of Australian feminist documentary filmmaking. Unique in adopting a women’s perspective on the Depression years, the film is a product of the early feminist movement in Australia.

Interviews are intercut with historical footage and photographs depicting the squalor and poverty of the Depression, along with the social and political strife that followed.  The women talk of the hardship of marriage and raising families, of husbands too proud to feed their families with the dole, or gambling it away, soup kitchens, mass evictions and the heartbreaking squalor of makeshift homeless camps like Happy Valley.

An indigenous interviewee talks of the added discrimination and hardship suffered by Aboriginal families, unable to access dole or child support payments.

There is an extensive recounting of the Rothbury Mine lockout and disturbance that saw police firing on miners and subsequently searching women’s bare cupboards for firearms. The increasing politicisation of working class women is highlighted by picket lines against scab labour and the actions of the Militant Women’s Group in supporting strikers across various industries. After a decade of hardship, the film concludes with their husbands heading off to the Second World War, leaving them behind to fend for themselves and their children.

Special Notes/Achievements

Produced with the assistance of the Australian Film Commission and the Women’s Film Fund.

  • Official selection – Melbourne International Film Festival 1982
  • Official selection – Wellington International Film Festival 1982
  • Official selection – Tyneside Film Festival, UK 1983
  • Official selection – Cinema du Reel, International Festival of Documentary Film Paris 1991
  • Broadcast on SBS TV Australia, 1988 [1]

[1] Ronin Films (n.d.), Bread And Dripping [website], viewed Jan 22, 2023  <>

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 17 mins

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Film Director: Elizabeth Schaffer, Margot Nash, Wendy Brady, Donna Foster, Vic Smith,

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Film Key Cast: Eileen Pittman, Tibby Whalan, Beryl Armstrong, Mary Wright,

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