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John Curtin’s Australian Journalists’ Association Badge

Video clip synopsis – John Curtin’s journalistic instincts came in handy during World War Two when he kept the media onside with secret press briefings. He wore his AJA badge every day he was in office.
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 5min 12sec
Tags - Australian History, biography, media, media influence, national identity, politics, Prime Ministers, representations of war, television documentaries, World War 2, see all tags


John Curtin’s Australian Journalists’ Association Badge

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About the Video Clip


John Curtin’s Australian Journalists’ Association Badge is an episode from the series The Prime Ministers’ National Treasures, produced in 2007.

The Prime Ministers’ National Treasures
Award winning cartoonist and yarn spinner, Warren Brown, reveals the emotional lives of Australian Prime Ministers through 10 objects they used every day or even adored – from Robert Menzies’ home movie camera, to Joseph Lyons’ love letters, Harold Holt’s briefcase and Ben Chifley’s pipe. These treasures reveal the nation’s leaders, as you have never seen them before.

The Prime Ministers’ National Treasures is a Film Australia National Interest Program produced in association with Old Parliament House and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Curriculum Focus


National Statements of Learning for English
Year 9 Writing

Students write extended or sustained texts that entertain, move, inform and persuade in print and electronic mediums. They write imaginative texts that contain personal, social and cultural ideas and issues related to their own lives and communities and their views of their expanding world. The imaginative texts they write may include short stories, anecdotes, plays, poetry, personal letters and advertisements. They also write information or argument texts which deal with ideas and issues where they would like to effect change, to persuade a general or particular audience to change their point of view, and/or to take action. The information and argument texts they write may include biographies, advertisements, news articles, features, letters to the editor and reviews.

This is an extract only. Go to The National Curriculum Statements for English
Teachers and students should consult their State’s curriculum and learning programs.

Background Information


John Curtin started out as a copy-boy on The Age, working his way up the ladder via the union movement. He joined the Australian Journalists’ Association (AJA) in 1917 and was elected Western Australian President in 1920, before moving into politics. Twenty years later he became Australia’s fourteenth Prime Minister.

Curtin became Prime Minister in October, 1941. Many Australian troops were fighting in the Middle East and north Africa, and the others were based in Singapore. In February 1942 the Japanese took Singapore, with 30,000 Australian troops becoming prisoner. Australia seemed vulnerable to attack and even invasion. Curtin now moved to bring the Australian troops home from overseas, but British Prime Minister Churchill wanted to deploy them to Burma. Curtin fought against this, and won — but had to endure the anguish of knowing thousands of Australians were virtually without protection against a strong Japanese fleet as they made the return trip to Australia. And at the same time he had to stop Australians on the home front from panicking — and that meant controlling the news that the press would release. How could he do this?

Curtin’s affinity with the press served him well during these arduous years of World War 2, when he kept newspaper editors onside with regular press briefings, even revealing dispatches from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He wore his AJA badge every day he was in office.

John Curtin (1885-1945) was Prime Minister of Australia from October 1941 to July 1945. John Curtin’s Australian Journalists’ Association badge is held at the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library in Perth.

Classroom Activities


1. Writing a biography

One form of communication about a Prime Minister can be through a biography.

A biography of a Prime Minister should tell us about:

  • The person’s background
  • His life before politics — and how that shaped his later life
  • Why the person entered politics
  • How the person became Prime Minister
  • What the person achieved, and failed to achieve, as Prime Minister
  • The influence of others on him in the role
  • His life after the Prime Ministership
  • An assessment or evaluation of the impact of the role on him, and his impact on the nation.

You should research these aspects, and then use the object as a way of focusing on or introducing your biographical story to your readers.

Your presentation can be as:

  • A journalistic article
  • An imaginary memoir
  • A formal biographical article
  • A PowerPoint-supported oral presentation
  • A debate (e.g. that Prime Minister X contributed more to Australia than Prime Minister Y)
  • Or some other format.

2. Reviewing a film

A recent telemovie, Curtin, presented a dramatic reconstruction of a period of crisis in John Curtin’s life as Prime Minister. See if you can view the film and after viewing, prepare a review.

In your review you should look at such aspects as characterisation, setting, the use of editing, the selection of dramatic moments, the use of sound and music to create responses.

Decide whether you think Curtin is an effective and successful portrayal of the man, the period and the issues.

Click here to find a Study Guide

Further Resources


Go to National Archives of Australia – Australian Prime Ministers
Go to the Australian Dictionary of Biography