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Curtin University
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library
Curtin University Library

Timeline of significant dates in the life of John Curtin

1885

Born at Creswick, Victoria, on January 8.
Poor family background. Father worked as policeman, hotel manager.

c.1899

Left school and worked in various jobs as office assistant and labourer.

1901

Australian colonies became a federation of states known as the Commonwealth of Australia.

c.1902

Met his local State parliamentary member, Anstey, who was to become his mentor; attended Anstey's Sunday morning study-circle.

1903

Commenced work as an estimates clerk with the Titan Manufacturing Company.

1906

Joined the Victorian Socialist Party. Became involved in "soapboxing" on the Yarra Bank. Once said, "The Yarra Bank was my university."
First writing published in the "Socialist".

1911-1915

Became Secretary of the Victorian Timber Workers' Union.

1914

Stood unsuccessfully for the Victorian seat of Balaclava

1915-December

New job as organiser for the Australian Workers' Union.

19l6

Became Victorian secretary of the Anti-Conscription League.

1917

Arrived in Perth to become the editor of the "Westralian Worker". Wrote many of the articles as well as the editorials.

1917-April

Married Elsie Needham.

1919

Stood for the Federal seat of Perth. Decisively beaten.

1920-1925

State district president of the Australian Journalists' Association.

1924

Australian delegate to the Sixth International Labor Organisation Conference of the League of Nations.

1925

Stood unsuccessfully for the Federal seat of Fremantle

1928

Won the marginal Federal seat of Fremantle.

1931

Lost the seat of Fremantle.

1931-1934

Freelance writing for various newspapers; sports writer for the "Westralian Worker"; publicity officer for the Perth Trades Hall Council; and chairman of the advisory council preparing WA's case before the Commonwealth Grants Commission.

1934

Regained the seat of Fremantle.

1935

Labor leader James Scullin resigned as leader due to ill health. Curtin elected leader over favourite Frank Forde by one vote.

1939

War declared in September.

1940

Federal election. Curtin campaigned in NSW to capture marginal seats for Labor. Neglected his own seat. For a while it appeared he had lost Fremantle. When asked by agitated friends and journalists what he would do, he replied: "I shall not chase my destiny. If Fremantle, which sent me to the Federal Parliament, rejects me from the Federal Parliament, that will be the end of politics for me." Retained his seat.

1941-August

Prime Minister Robert Menzies resigned. A W Fadden became Prime Minister.

1941-0ctober

Fadden's government brought down.

1941
- 7 October

Curtin became Prime Minister.

1941-December

Curtin's famous New Year article:
"The Australian Government therefore regards the Pacific struggle as primarily one in which the United States and Australia must have the fullest say in the direction of the democracies' fighting plan.
"Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom"

1942

At Curtin's insistence General Douglas MacArthur arrived in Australia as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the South West Pacific.

1942-March

Curtin became the first Australian Prime Minister to address the people of the United States in a broadcast speech.

1942-1944

Introduction of widows' pensions, maternity allowances, sickness and unemployment benefits.

1943-August

Curtin government won landslide election victory - Curtin's majority increased from 600 to 20,000 in his Fremantle electorate.

1944

Attended Prime Ministers' Conference in England. Also went to Washington and met with President Roosevelt and US Secretary of State, Cordell Hull.

1944-November

Coronary occlusion. Curtin hospitalised for two months.

1945-January

Back at work, but very weak.

1945 July 5

Curtin died. Buried in the Karrakatta cemetery. The inscription on his gravestone is:
"His country was his pride
His brother man his cause"

Biography of John Curtin