Socialist Orator
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John Curtin's difficulties at home led him to find a substitute family that could offer him personal support and companionship as well as a faith that things would get better. He found this through the Socialist Movement and particularly the Victorian Socialist Party, which gave him a network of friends, organised his social life and gave him something to work for. It was through this network that John Curtin met Frank Anstey and Tom Mann, two very influential socialist thinkers, who became lifelong friends and mentors.

The Party was also a community that fostered close links between its members by building up its own cultural practices. There was a Sunday School for the children and family picnics and outings on the Yarra River. Alongside these social activities there was the serious business of attracting converts through large open-air meetings and street corner soap box oratory.

It was through activities like these that the young John Curtin met his first sweetheart, Annie Gunn, who was to die from pneumonia caught at one of the street corner meetings on a wet evening.

Victorian Socialist Party School pupils & teachers, including R Ross and Yatala Bruce. By permission of the National Library of Australia.

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library, Records of West Australian News Ltd, John Curtin, probably in his early 20s, when he was a member of the Victorian Socialist Party, n.d., JCPML 00409/1. (Original held by West Australian News Ltd.)

Young Bobbie Bruce wins a fancy dress competition in the cause of socialism. Courtesy of Robin Glenie.

Mrs Bruce atop a trestle table to address the Sunday Crowds at Port Melbourne, just one of the regular open-air meetings of the Socialist Party. By permission of the National Library of Australia.

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