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A prime ministers home

John Curtin watches the Governor General, Lord Gowrie, sign the declaration of war on Japan in December 1941. Records of the Curtin family JCPML00449/5

John Curtin came to power two months before the Japanese fleet attacked Pearl Harbour in December 1941. He did not wait for Great Britain to speak first on Australia’s war status as it had in the past, but made a declaration of war on Japan promptly and independently.

As Australia’s perilous position became clear Curtin continued his independent stance with a historic New Year message to Australians, announcing that:

Australia looks to America, free from any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom ...’ [30]

Clashes with the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill followed as Curtin asserted Australia’s defence needs over those of the British Empire. He was regarded as a national hero for his insistence on bringing divisions of Australian troops back from the Middle East to defend Australia from advancing Japanese forces.

Right:  (New Zealand), London, 1944(Canada), Smuts (South Africa), Churchill (UK), Fraserand Dominion prime ministers (L-R) MacKenzie-KingAustralian prime minister John Curtin (R) with British. Records of the Curtin family JCPML00376/16

His close relations with General Douglas MacArthur [31],  and the Curtins’ 1944 visit to the United States, reflect the importance Curtin ascribed to Australia’s relations with the US.

He was prime minister for three years and nine months. The stress of his wartime responsibilities combined with a diet rich in animal fats, his continuous smoking habit, and his former heavy use of alcohol presumably contributed to his death at the age of sixty from heart disease.

John Curtin believed he was ‘not trained to be a war lord’ [32], but he led Australia through the perilous years of World War II, developed independent foreign policies, and instigated planning for post-war recovery. Curtin’s contribution to Australia, and the community respect that he inspired across party-political divides have accorded him an illustrious place in the nation’s history.

Next: Personal security

  • Advertisement_used_in_the_Australian_government_austerity_campaign_1943.jpg
    Advertisement used in the Australian government austerity campaign 1943
  • Jan_Smuts_-_Peter_Fraser_-_ W_Mackenzie-King_-_Winston_Churchill_and_John_Curtin_London_1944.jpg
    Jan_Smuts_-_Peter_Fraser_-_ W_Mackenzie-King_-_Winston_Churchill_and_John_Curtin_London_1944.jpg
    Jan Smuts - Peter Fraser - W Mackenzie-King - Winston Churchill and John Curtin London 1944
  • John_Curtin_and_Governor_General_Lord_Gowrie_sign_the_declaration_of_war_on_Japan_December 1941.jpg
    John_Curtin_and_Governor_General_Lord_Gowrie_sign_the_declaration_of_war_on_Japan_December 1941.jpg
    John Curtin and Governor General Lord Gowrie sign the declaration of war on Japan December 1941
  • John_Curtin_greeting_his_wife_on_arriva_home_on_left_is_the_Premier_Willcock_15-8-1943.jpg
    John Curtin greeting his wife on arriva home on left is the Premier Willcock 15-8-1943
  • John_Curtin_writing_at_his_desk_in_the_lounge_(nd).jpg
    John Curtin writing at his desk in the lounge (nd)
  • John_F_and_Elsie_M_Curtin_in_the_garden_1941.jpg
    John F and Elsie M Curtin in the garden 1941
  • Masumi_Kawai_attends_84th_birthday_of_Elsie_Curtin_1974.jpg
    Masumi Kawai attends 84th birthday of Elsie Curtin 1974
  • Telegram_from_John_to_Elsie_Curtin_before_their_first_Christmas_apart_ 23-12-1941.jpg
    Telegram_from_John_to_Elsie_Curtin_before_their_first_Christmas_apart_ 23-12-1941.jpg
    Telegram from John to Elsie Curtin before their first Christmas apart 23-12-1941
  • The_front_door_1998.jpg
    The front door 1998

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