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"Give of your best in the service of the nation. There is a place and part for all of us. Each must take his or her place in the service of the nation, for the nation itself is in peril. This is our darkest hour. Let that be fully realised ... We shall hold this country, and keep it as a citadel for the British- speaking race, and as a place where civilisation will persist".
John Curtin, (1941).

The fight to win the war was more than a question of securing Allied help. It was also a question of bringing Australians together, of giving them faith in their own abilities and strength. To do this, John Curtin had to foster a sense of national pride based on a strong sense of a national community working together to achieve a common end.

"The Spearhead reaches South - Always South" , Government Notice, Courier Mail, 1942.
Courtesy of the National Archives of Australia.

This wasn't always easy. Australia had barely emerged from the Great Depression which had left deep social

divisions. Many people had suffered enormous hardships and the war effort required them to put the nation before themselves. While John Curtin tried to provide an example in the way he lived his own life, he had other challenges to meet as well. As a socialist, he had always argued for the right to strike and yet he faced difficult problems with some unions. He also had to find ways in which government could locate the resources it needed for the war effort while minimising profiteering from the war. And yet he managed to balance all of these competing pressures and get the Australian people behind the war effort.

One of the ways in which John Curtin tried to raise money for the war effort was through a series of war loans known as Liberty Bonds. The idea was that the Australian people themselves would lend the government money. They would be repaid at the end of the war and receive interest. The Australian public responded generously time after time.

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library, Records of the Curtin family, Liberty Bonds - double decker buses in Sydney depicting Churchill and John Curtin (n.d.), JCPML 00139/130.

Another strategy of John Curtin's government was to get the Australian population to recycle everything so that all the spare resources could go to the war effort. Government propaganda suggested to the people ways in which they could recycle existing resources. In this case a sugar bag suit is advertised as suitable material for a men's suit.

Wearing the sugar bag suit in a Melbourne Street. Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, negative number 013237.

Prior to the war, John Curtin did not have a particularly strong public image. As soon as he became Prime Minister however, John Curtin seemed to gain in stature, rising to meet the seriousness of the situation. The contrast between these two views of Curtin is the subject of this cartoon. Curtin's stature as a strong leader is the basis for a government propaganda program in which Curtin is shown as having the strength to put an end to the war and protect Australia.

"For six years he shivered on the brink" , Sydney Sun, November 1941.
By permission of the National Library of Australia.


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