This award-winning two part mini-series, based on George Johnston’s classic novel, tells the story of two brothers in the years between the two World Wars.
Jack Meredith is a knockabout bloke, uneducated but hardworking and decent, whose life is battered by the Great Depression. His younger brother David, clever and ambitious, becomes a journalist and celebrated war correspondent, but his success can never quite compensate for the hollowness of his personal life.
It is a powerful story of the forces that bring families together and pull them apart, of the search for identity, and of Australia at war. The story and the online study guide focus on media representations of war, race and gender issues between the wars, and the search for identity.
When Jack and David's father returns from the war, the impact on the family is great. Damaged by the war, he becomes abusive – and Jack doesn't like it so he leaves home to find work in the Wimmera. David is apprenticed to a commercial art firm in the city, but he has an ambition to be a writer. After having a story published in the Morning Post, he becomes a journalist.
This personal impact of war on families offers students valuable insight into a topic that is seldom dealt with in history texts for this period.
Differing effects of the Depression are represented. The US financial crash is signalled in newspaper headlines, and we glimpse evictions and hardship. Jack loses his job and heads to Chile to work on a pipeline. His girlfriend Sheila disappears. Penniless and ill, Jack is shipped back to Australia and Sheila comes home when David places an ad in the missing persons’ column of the newspaper. She brings Jack’s daughter Sharon into their lives.
David is now married. A talented journalist, he becomes a successful war correspondent – but is unhappy with his suburban life. Jack joins the army at the start of World War II, however, a training accident leaves him with a broken leg so he's out of the war.
Issues of war propaganda are explored when David grows aware of the tension between the reality of the fighting around him and the function of his work as a war correspondent in New Guinea in 1942. He comes into contact with anti-Semitism when he reports on Jewish refugees arriving in Australia from fascist states of Europe in the 1930s. The depictions of the treatment of refugees and tensions between religious groups invite students to make comparison with similar situations today.
Mrs Meredith, Helen, Sheila and other female characters offer an opportunity for students to explore the differing experiences of women in Australian society between the wars. Toward the end of the miniseries, David the war correspondent has become Jack’s hero, the soldier who did not see active service. When David visits his brother’s local pub, Jack proudly introduces him as my brother Davey.
Australian Story: Jack Hazlitt (26 mins)