This is a printer friendly page
Free for educational use

Joseph Lyons’ Love Letters

Video clip synopsis – Politics rarely produces impassioned romantics, which makes the hundreds of letters Joseph Lyons wrote to his adored wife and confidante, Enid, as fascinating as they are unexpected
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 5min 2sec
Tags - Australian History, biography, conscription, gender, icons, identity, leadership, national identity, Prime Ministers, representations, war, see all tags


Joseph Lyons’ Love Letters

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 lyons_pr.mp4 (37.1MB).

ipod icon Broadband MP4 lyons_bb.mp4 (17.5MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.

Additional help.

About the Video Clip


Joseph Lyons’ Love Letters 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.

Background Information


Joseph Lyons was elected to the Commonwealth Parliament in 1929 as the Australian Labor Party member for a seat in Tasmania. Two years later he was Prime Minister, representing the United Australia Party, having left the ALP in protest against that party’s Depression economic policies.

The Depression meant a huge increase in unemployment. The major parties disagreed over what they should do. The Labor Government wanted to increase government spending to stimulate economic activity and create jobs. Where would the money come from to do this? From delaying or reducing the payment of debts to British investors and banks. To Lyons, this was irresponsible. He wanted Australia to cut its spending, not increase it, and to pay back debts, not defer them. He split from his party and became leader of the new United Australia Party, and was elected in 1931.

Lyons was a trusted figure. He and his adored wife and confidante, Enid, presented a genuine picture of domestic harmony and security to the Australian public despite the many separations they endured as he commuted from the family home in Tasmania to the Australian capital. They had 12 children together. Politics rarely produces impassioned romantics, which is just what makes the hundreds of letters Joseph Lyons wrote to Enid as fascinating as they are unexpected. He died in office and Enid went on to become the first female member of the Federal House of Representatives and the first woman in Federal Cabinet.

Joseph Lyons (1879 -1939) was Prime Minister of Australia from January 1932 to April 1939. Joseph Lyons’ love letters are held at the National Library of Australia in Canberra

Classroom Activities


Assessing a leader

A good way of assessing leadership is through a biographical study of the leader. Focus your research on:

  • 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
  • His qualities in office
  • 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 his role as a national leader.

Further Resources


Go to National Archives of Australia – Australian Prime Ministers

Go to the Australian Dictionary of Biography