This is a printer friendly page
Free for educational use

James Scullin And The GCMG

Video clip synopsis – James Scullin inspired the people when he offered to rent out The Lodge during the Depression, but his fierce nationalism is best revealed in his campaign to install an Australian-born Governor General.
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 5min 20sec
Tags - Australian History, British Empire, icons, identity, imperialism, independence, national identity, Prime Ministers, see all tags


James Scullin And The GCMG

How to Download the Video Clip

To download a free copy of this Video Clip choose from the options below. These require the free Quicktime Player.

download clip icon Premium MP4 scullin_pr.mp4 (39.4MB).

ipod icon Broadband MP4 scullin_bb.mp4 (18.6MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.

Additional help.

About the Video Clip


James Scullin And The GCMG 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


Speaking and listening Standards
At Level 6, students analyse critically the relationship between texts, contexts, speakers and listeners in a range of situations. When engaged in discussion, they compare ideas, build on others’ ideas, provide and justify other points of view, and reach conclusions that take account of aspects of an issue. In their presentations, they make effective use of the structures and features of spoken language to deal with complex subject matter in a range of situations.

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


James Scullin was the manager of a small grocery store who continued to educate himself, and then became a union organiser.

He was elected to Commonwealth Parliament in 1910, lost his seat in 1913, and was re-elected in 1923. He became Australian Labor Party leader in 1928.

Labor won the 1929 election and Scullin became Prime Minister — the first Catholic to do so. Unfortunately, this was also the start of the Depression. One week after Scullin’s electoral victory, the Wall Street stock market crashed, and investors raced to withdraw their investments. Australia depended on foreign loans to support much of its economic activity, so the loss of loan money, together with the need to repay existing debts, and falls in the price of our major agricultural exports, led to huge unemployment as employers had to cut back on their activities.

The new Prime Minister, James Scullin, refused to take up residence in The Lodge. Instead, he offered to rent it out to defray the costs of the Prime Ministership—an act which would be unthinkable today. Scullin had backbone, and even when his mission to appoint an Australian-born Governor-General met with furious opposition from the British Government and Australian public disapproval, he insisted on forwarding the name of only one candidate—Sir Isaac Isaacs. King George V was not amused, but the precedent had been set—in effect the Governor-General was being appointed not by the King but by the Prime Minister— and Isaacs was anointed to the Order of St Michael and St George as Knight Grand Cross (GCMG) and presented with the insignia chain.

James Scullin (1876 -1953) was Prime Minister of Australia from October 1929 to January 1932. The GCMG is held at the National Library of Australia in Canberra.

Classroom Activities



This object shows us the strength of the connection between Australia and Britain at that time.

Do we still have equally strong ties today? Two of the main ties are the role of the Queen as the Head of State, and the presence of the Union Jack in the Australian flag.

Should either of these be changed?

Prepare two debates:

  • That Australia should become a republic
  • That Australia should change its national flag.

Further Resources


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