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Curtin University
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library
Curtin University Library

About the collection

A prime focus of the research collection is John Curtin's life and times.

Building the collection more than 50 years after Prime Minister Curtin's death posed challenges with materials dispersed amongst private individuals, organisations and state, national and overseas archival institutions. The JCPML Electronic Research Archive, ERA, provides online access to these records, as well as to records held in the JCPML, in a seamless manner. ERA was developed to provide access to as many records as possible, not just selected key items. Much of the collection has been digitised and ERA includes images (photographs, documents), text (contents of documents), and audio and video (oral histories, sound recordings, motion pictures).

In particular, the JCPML acknowledges the very significant and ongoing contribution of the National Archives of Australia (NAA) in digitising Curtin related Commonwealth records held in its collections and in facilitating access via ERA to the digitised items on the NAA's online catalogue RecordSearch. (Note these may not display properly in recent versions of Internet Explorer but do display in other browsers eg Firefox.)

ERA also provides access to material which is not related to John Curtin but which falls into other collection themes as below.

Collection Themes

John Curtin's life and times

The primary focus of the research collection is on John Curtin and the events and people most closely connected to his life and work and it is in this area that collection development is actively undertaken. The significant research collection resulting from this priority is what makes the JCPML unique. The archival collection includes personal records of the Curtin family, published items, ephemera, objects, photographs, oral histories, audiovisual material, and copies of unpublished official records.

Within this theme, the JCPML holds the research papers of respected journalist and economist, Tom Fitzgerald, amassed for his intended biography of Curtin, the papers of Alex McCallum, WA State Labor parliamentarian and key associate of Curtin, and the papers of Bob Wurth, in association with the research and writing of his book Saving Australia, Curtin’s secret peace with Japan, (Lothian Books, South Melbourne, 2006) which focuses on the Australian-Japanese ralationship.

Other collection themes

The collection focus of John Curtin's life and times provides a springboard for a range of other themes including the Australian-American relationship, post-war reconstruction, foreign policy, social and political history and the prime ministership as an office, including a focus on the lives and contribution of those directly associated with it such as the spouses and families of prime ministers.

Papers of Hazel Hawke
In line with the theme of the prime ministership as an office, Hazel Hawke's papers are lodged with the JCPML. Identifying herself as a West Australian, Hazel Hawke wanted her records to come to a university in her home state.

DFAT records from research for the 'Documents on Australian Foreign Policy' series
The collection also includes about 80 metres of records created by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), transferred to the JCPML by the National Archives of Australia and DFAT. These records comprise the working papers accumulated in the course of preparing the 16-volume publication Documents on Australian Foreign policy, 1937-1949. The research potential of these records is significant as only about 10% of the working papers were used in the published volumes and the contents and subjects covered are broad - from war cabinet agenda and minutes to major world events such as Hitler's peace offensive, the fall of France, appeals to Roosevelt, war crimes, refugees, Imperial Defence, League of Nations, post war planning, and Pacific rim events concerning Japan, New Guinea, Timor and US Pacific interests.

Adding value to the collection

The JCPML adds value to the collection through the creation of word-processed files of important records, especially those not suited to scanning as images. These searchable text documents include transcripts of oral histories and speeches and text of articles and editorials written by Curtin and published in such papers as the Westralian Worker, the Socialist and the Timber Worker.