Document Studies: John Curtin's Life & Character

Discover John Curtin, one of Australia's most remarkable prime ministers - a revolutionary young socialist turned political pragmatist, an idealist forced to compromise with the realities of party political life, and a man who led his country in World War Two but who campaigned against conscription in World War One.

This resource features the ABC Radio National Hindsight documentary Prime Minister John Curtin, produced by Bill Bunbury in 2000. Background information for the document studies is based on a summary of the documentary and the final activity involves listening to the program online. The documentary traces Curtin's life from his birth in rural Victoria to his death in July 1945 on the eve of Allied victory. Historian David Day, author of John Curtin, A Life, comments on the influence of Curtin's parents, his idealism and the nature of his leadership. Curtin's daughter, Elsie Macleod, and others who knew Curtin personally, recall incidents that reveal his personality, his concern for those who worked with him and the tensions that beset his life.

Graphic of John Curtin, based on JCPML00180/16

10 document studies provide a variety of fascinating documents which illuminate Curtin's life and character - personal and political letters, parliamentary speeches, a radio broadcast, newspaper articles, oral histories, Caucus minutes and a radio documentary. Each document study can be a self contained activity or the whole set can be worked through in sequence. Answer keys are provided for each document study.

Document Study 1
Anti-conscription article by Curtin's friend and mentor Frank Anstey in the Timber Worker, a union newspaper, 1915
Document Study 2
Personal letter from John Curtin to Jessie Gunn, a young family friend in the socialist movement, 1909
Document Study 3
Oral history interview with Perth journalist Frank Davidson who recalls Curtin's time as editor of the Westralian Worker paper
Document Study 4
Editorial from the Westralian Worker 'Reform or Revolution! Which?' by John Curtin, 5 August 1921 &
Letter from Curtin to his friend and mentor Frank Anstey about solving industrial problems on the waterfront, 1925
 
Document Study 5
Speech in Parliament by Curtin as a backbencher opposing the Premiers' Plan in the midst of the Depression, 1931
Document Study 6
Oral history interview with Adele Hodges, Curtin's secretary from 1936 to 1941, who recalls Curtin as Leader of the Opposition
& Speech in Parliament about Australia's place in the world by Curtin as Opposition Leader, 1935
 
Document Study 7
Caucus minutes of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party outlining Curtin's Declaration Concerning the War, 1939.
Document Study 8
Sydney Morning Herald newspaper article 'Government control of economic life: Sweeping plan announced', 11 February 1942
& Oral history interview with John McNamara, family friend of the Curtins, about Curtin recalling Aust. troops from the Middle East
 
Document Study 9
Radio broadcast speech by Curtin to the American people, 14 March 1942
Document Study 10
Radio documentary - Education program version of ABC Hindsight program Prime Minister John Curtin, by Bill Bunbury, 2000
& Speeches in Parliament in tribute to PM Curtin after his death in office, 5 July 1945

 

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