17. John Curtin (1885-1945), Prime Minister
John Curtin was born in Victoria. From his youth he was deeply involved in the Labor Movement. He had been a member of the Socialist Party of Victoria, a Labor journalist, trade union secretary and secretary of the anti-conscription campaign in Victoria before coming to Western Australia in 1917 as editor of the Westralian Worker. He made the Worker a strongly anti-militarist, anti-capitalist paper in the early twenties.
Between 1928-1931 Curtin was a backbencher in the Federal Parliament as the member for Fremantle. He was defeated in the 1931 elections and worked as a part-time journalist until the next elections in 1934 when he was re-elected Member of the House of Representatives for Fremantle.
By 1935 Curtin was the Labor Party’s parliamentary leader. Following the collapse of the Menzies and Fadden Governments in 1941, John Curtin became Prime Minister of Australia. As wartime leader he was decisive and inspiring, though forced to make decisions on the introduction of overseas conscription which cost him much as a Labor man. He asserted the defence needs of Australia in the Pacific war against the demands of the war in Europe and drew Australia closer to the United States of America. John Curtin died in office just weeks before the end of the war in the Pacific.