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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, icons, identity, leadership, media, media influence, national identity, Prime Ministers, representations, representations of war, television documentaries, television drama, 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


A student:
5.1 explains social, political and cultural developments and events and evaluates their impact on Australian life
5.2 assesses the impact of international events and relationships on Australia’s history
5.4 sequences major historical events to show an understanding of continuity, change and causation
5.5 identifies, comprehends and evaluates historical sources
5.6 uses sources appropriately in an historical inquiry
5.7 explains different contexts, perspectives and interpretations of the past.

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

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. Interrogating objects

History sometimes involves the study of artifacts — often in a museum, as part of a site study. Objects and artifacts can tell you about a person or a time — but only if you can ‘interrogate’ them to find out what their story is.

Here are questions that you can use on museum objects, such as this one about the Prime Minister, to help reveal the meaning and significance of objects.

  • Describe the object. (Size, shape, materials, function etc.)
  • What does it show? — People? Symbols? Words? If so, who or what are they?
  • What is its context? (Time, place, social group etc.)
  • Who produced it?
  • For what possible purpose/s?
  • Who was it meant for? (Just one person, or a whole audience?)
  • What might it tell us about attitudes and values — that is, those things that people believe are the right way to behave?
  • What does it tell us about how people behaved at the time?

Now write a summary sentence beginning:

‘This object helps me understand or realise that . . . ‘

2. Using Curtin in the classroom

In 2006 the telemovie Curtin told the story of Curtin and his struggle to bring Australian troops back to defend Australia after the entry of Japan into the war.

Watch the film and use the Metro Study Guide to explore the questions:

  • Can films that use historical reconstructions be good history?
  • What are their strengths?
  • What are their weaknesses?
  • What qualities or characteristics do they need to have to qualify as good history?

Further Resources


Go to National Archives of Australia – Australian Prime Ministers

Go to the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Go to the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library

For more photographs, cartoons and other historical images of this Prime Minister go to the National Library of Australia and search using the Prime Minister’s name.