The ABC drama “Curtin” put into focus the life of John Curtin – one of Australia’s greatest Prime Ministers.
Like so many people, alcohol was Curtin’s greatest challenge. He had grown up around it with his father running several pubs. But it was during his time as the Victorian Secretary of the Timber Workers’ Union that Curtin’s fondness for the demon drink grew into a major disability. According to his biographer David Day: “the culture of the male-dominated union movement was steeped in beer” and Curtin was steeped in the culture.
Suddenly in November 1915 Curtin resigned his post. He went briefly to work for the Australian Workers’ Union and then was appointed the organiser of the anti-conscription campaign being run by the Congress of Australian Trade Unions. The work was stressful and intense and his drinking continued and became worse.
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An old newspaper can work like a telescope into the past, the details sharp but the whole picture a little shaky and blurred, and the newspaper on my wall is like that. It’s the front of the Melbourne Argus for Sunday, September the third, 1939, and it contains only one story, told in a series of blaring headlines.
BRITAIN AT WAR
DECLARED AT 8.20 P.M.
‘OUR CONSCIENCE CLEAR’ – MR CHAMBERLAIN
A DECLARATION THAT A STATE OF WAR EXISTED BETWEEN BRITAIN AND GERMANY WAS MADE BY THE PRIME MINISTER, MR CHAMBERLAIN, TO THE NATION FROM NO. 10 DOWNING STREET TO-NIGHT.
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