John Curtin Medal
The John Curtin Medal is named after the Right Honourable John Curtin, Prime Minister of Australia from 1941 to 1945, who is recognised as one of Australia's greatest statesmen.
Born in Victoria on 8 January 1885, Mr Curtin moved to Perth in 1917 to become editor of a trade union newspaper. In 1928 he was elected as Member for Fremantle in the House of Representatives and in 1935 was elected leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party and therefore Leader of the Opposition.
He was sworn in as Prime Minister on 7 October 1941 when the government of the day resigned after losing a vote in the House of Representatives.
Curtin remains the only Prime Minister to represent a Western Australian seat in Federal Parliament. Curtin assumed office just six weeks before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and led Australia through some of the nation's darkest days.
Due to the many heavy burdens of office, and within weeks of final victory in the Pacific, he died on 5 July 1945 at the age of 60. A crowd of more than 20,000 attended his funeral in Perth.His grave is marked by an obelisk with the epitaph:
His country was his pride
His brother man his cause
John Curtin's Greatest Achievements
John Curtin left an enduring legacy to the Australian people. Among his greatest contributions were:
- his role in developing an independent foreign policy to replace the previous colonial dependence on Great Britain;
- the forgoing of a strategic alliance with the United States, a policy shift representing a radical, difficult and controversial change of outlook for the nation;
- the overhaul of the national economy, emphasising the maintenance of full employment as a major objective of government;
- the sound judgement he exercised in making extremely difficult decisions under immense pressure while Australia was in a state of war;
- his achievement in rising above party politics to unite Australia's war effort; and
- leadership in laying the foundation for post-war reconstruction and progressive social legislation, reflected in the introduction of widows' pensions, sickness and unemployment benefits and the beginning of a national health scheme.
The John Curtin Medal is awarded by Curtin University to people who have exhibited John Curtin's qualities of vision, leadership and community service and who have made a significant contribution in their chosen field.