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John Curtin

Leader of the Opposition John Curtin aged 53, 1938 Records of the Curtin family JCPML00376/59 John Curtin was Australia’s prime minister from October 1941 until his death in July 1945. He led Australia through the most critical years of World War II before he died in office on 5 July 1945, shortly before the war ended in the Pacific.

Curtin was born in 1885 in rural Victoria and educated in seven or eight different schools there as his family moved around the state[1] . He eventually left school at the age of thirteen to seek work that could support his impoverished family. His education continued informally through Victorian Socialist Party activities and at public libraries.

The young John Curtin (at left) with his sisters and his father, who managed the Golden Fleece Hotel in Dromana, Victoria, in about 1896. The Curtin family was often on the move as Curtin senior sought a living during the depression of the 1890s. Records of the Curtin family JCPML00376/211 By 1911 John Curtin was known as a passionate speaker and political activist. He served as secretary to the Victorian Timber Workers’ Union and edited the Timber Workerr until 1915, when he became an organiser of the Australian Workers’ Union.  
While campaigning against conscription in 1916,  he battled a drinking problem and was treated in hospital. Later that year he was briefly gaoled for failing to respond to a military service enlistment proclamation.

Early in 1917 Curtin was appointed editor of the Westralian Worker, a Labor Party-owned newspaper published in Perth. This was a life-changing event. He could now make a place for himself in a new environment, and he was able to support a wife.

John Curtin 'the speaker'.
Elsie M Macleod describes the powerful voice of her father John Curtin. 1994. JCPML00012/1


Next: Elsie Curtin

Learn More: John Curtin - Prime Minister of Australia

  • General_Douglas_MacArthur_&_John_Curtin_Melbourne_ND.jpg
    General Douglas MacArthur & John Curtin Melbourne ND
  • John_Curtin_aged_53_1938.jpg
    John Curtin aged 53 1938
  • John_Curtin_Snr_with_his_children__Hotel_ at_ Charlton_Victoria_1896.jpg
    John_Curtin_Snr_with_his_children__Hotel_ at_ Charlton_Victoria_1896.jpg
    John Curtin Snr with his children Hotel at Charlton Victoria 1896
  • John_Curtin_working_Sunday_morning_Lodge_study_Canberra_1942.jpg
    John Curtin working Sunday morning Lodge study Canberra 1942
  • PM_John_Curtin_and_General_Douglas_MacArthur_Canberra_1942.jpg
    PM John Curtin and General Douglas MacArthur Canberra 1942
  • Staff_of_the_Westralian_Worker_at_John_Curtin's_ retirement_as_editor_1928.jpg
    Staff_of_the_Westralian_Worker_at_John_Curtin's_ retirement_as_editor_1928.jpg
    Staff of the Westralian Worker at John Curtin's retirement as editor 1928
  • Westralian_Worker_office_Stirling_St_Perth_1930.jpg
    Westralian Worker office Stirling St Perth 1930

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