John Curtin, a national leader in time of war

John Curtin was Prime Minister of Australia during her darkest hour, when our nation was under attack from the Japanese; and at a time when other Western democratic nations were under serious threat. He rose from humble beginnings to become one of our nation’s greatest leaders.

Curtin was born on the 8th of January 1885 in Creswick, Victoria, to a local policeman and his wife, both Irish-born. He first worked in newspapers and manufacturing; then became a union official for the timber workers’ union, later becoming its national president. In 1915 he became an organizer for the Australian Workers’ Union, moving to Perth in 1917 to become editor of the AWU newspaper, the Westralian Worker.

He was elected to parliament as the member for Fremantle in 1928, fulfilling that role until 1931, then from 1934 until his death. During the Second World War, he became Prime Minister on the 7th of October 1941 (following on from the United Australia Party governments of Bob Menzies and Arthur Fadden) just two months before Japan entered the war by attacking Pearl Harbour on the 7th of December 1941.

Curtin realized that, with the entry of the Japanese into the war, the long relied upon British military would not be able to offer a substantial defensive umbrella to Australia; and so he struck up a military alliance with the USA, which led to the Americans using Australia as a base of operations, with large-scale military deployments under the command of US General Douglas McArthur.

Curtin put the interests of Australia before all else. He clashed with the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, over the use of the Australian divisions returning from the Middle East. Churchill ordered the 7th Division to Burma, to assist the Chinese, but Curtin countermanded the order and had the main force sail home to Australia so that they could be deployed against a possible Japanese invasion of Australia and New Guinea.

Curtin led Australia during the war years with such determination and dedication that his health suffered severely for it; he died in office on the 5th of July 1945, just a few weeks before the Japanese surrendered on the 15th of August 1945.

John Curtin was a great leader, a man of the people, who gave his life in the service of his nation. He shall never be forgotten.

Geoffrey Serle. “Curtin, John (1885–1945)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography
Professor David Black. “Biography of John Curtin”, Curtin University
John Curtin”, National Museum of Australia
John Curtin”, Wikipedia
John Curtin”, National Archives of Australia


  1. I don't think Australia has ever had a truly great leader, they all fall far short in my view.

  2. He was a fair bit different from the upper class wine and dine set inner city urban elites that you see in the labour party now.

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