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Oral history interview with Perth journalist Frank Davidson who recalls Curtin's time as editor of the Westralian Worker paper

Background information

In 1911, at the age of 26, John Curtin secured the position of secretary of the Timber Workers' Union. At this time, Curtin had a drinking problem which was exacerbated by the arduous life he led as a union secretary. His friends, however, never wrote him off. They saw greatness in him and never allowed him to ‘slip out’ of the movement.

It was a godsend when, in 1917, Curtin’s friends found him a job in Western Australia as editor of the Westralian Worker newspaper.

Westralian Worker building, c1920. JCPML00379/1

JCPML. Records of the Australian Labor Party WA Branch. Westralian Worker building, c1920. JCPML00379/1

Gossip had it that Curtin was a ‘real red’, a Yarra Bank orator. People expected him to be a fiery chap with red ties, untidy suits and a loud and flamboyant nature. What they got was an earnest looking, quiet, mild mannered, neatly dressed man who soon made friends in the newspaper business.

Document: Oral history interview with Perth journalist Frank Davidson who recalls Curtin's time as editor of the Westralian Worker paper

Source: JCPML. Records of the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Interview of Frank Davidson, 1996. JCPML00127/1

You can Listen to the interview or read the short excerpt below.

Excerpt:

I first met him [John Curtin] in the 1920s when he came over to Western Australia with the backing of Frank Anstey, who was a notable Labor man in his day. He got the job as editor of the Westralian Worker. There was some opposition to it but he, with Frank Anstey's very strong backing - there was never any question he would be the man who got the job. And we met him when he moved in there...

He was perhaps fortunate that he was based over here, where he was a loner. He had a much greater influence here than he would have had in the Eastern States because he was absent from the feuding, and he also had the Westralian Worker. He was not only the editor of it, but he wrote a tremendous number of the things that appeared in the Worker. His innermost thoughts were coming out in his ordinary writing in the Worker. So he was more than just an editor, he was a man who was using his pen to spread his thoughts - and I think that's why he had a greater influence on people than the average editor would.

Questions

a. What does Frank Davidson say about Curtin’s work and role at the Westralian Worker?
b. What advantages did Frank Davidson believe that John Curtin gained by being in Western Australia, rather than in the eastern states of Australia?

Compare your answers with the Answer Key

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