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John Curtin and Australia’s coming of age

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‘— 2015 John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library Anniversary Lecture —

Columnist and author, Peter FitzSimons delivered the 2015 John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library (JCMPL) Anniversary lecture at Curtin University on the stories that have defined Australia.

The annual lecture, introduced by JCPML Patron and former Prime Minister the Honourable Julia Gillard, marked the 70th anniversary of Australia’s war time Prime Minister John Curtin’s death on July 5, 1945.

In his speech, Mr FitzSimons outlined the quintessentially Australian story that was the rise of John Curtin from his humble beginnings to the highest office in the country.

Mr FitzSimons spoke about the defining moments of Prime Minister Curtin’s leadership, the legacy of Gallipoli as our founding national story and the virtues of the Eureka Stockade as an alternative to this.

In discussing the legacy John Curtin left, Mr FitzSimons highlighted his foreign policy initiatives and the move of Australia away from its ties with Britain, towards an alliance with the United States of America.

“John Curtin’s foreign policy was a seismic shift away from the notion of Australia being no more than an outpost of Great Britain in the South Seas, and instead being an independent entity, capable of forging a foreign policy all our own,” Mr FitzSimons said.

“The other great initiative was Curtin’s staring down the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, on the issue of Australian troops. With Britain pushing for Australian soldiers to help thwart Japan’s push to the west towards India, Curtin wanted his finest sons in Australia to defend Australian soil. It seemed to Curtin that when Australia was in need, Britain simply wasn’t there.”

In closing, Mr FitzSimons saluted John Curtin and his memory, and bowed to JCPML Patron the Hon. Julia Gillard, for the contributions they have made to Australia.

Peter FitzSimons is a columnist with Sydney Morning Herald and Sun-Herald and the author of 25 best-selling books. A former Australian rugby union player, his latest book Gallipoli, recreates the failed campaign as told through the surviving soldiers.

For more information on the 2015 JCPML Anniversary Lecture, visit

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