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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 17767

Speech to the Opening of the Curtin Family Home, Perth

Photo of Gillard, Julia

Gillard, Julia

Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013

More information about Gillard, Julia on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 30/03/2011

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 17767

I am deeply honoured to be here today - honoured as a Prime Minister and honoured as an Australian. Our nation has produced few more substantial figures than John Joseph Curtin. Arthur Fadden went so far as to call him “one of the greatest Australians ever”.

It was said at Curtin's death that:

“His memorial stands around us - a free land, a free people.” And that is why it is tempting to say that 24 Jarrad Street, Cottesloe should be regarded as a shrine to a great leader. But that is a description that John Curtin would have vehemently rejected. He was an unassuming man, as this modest home shows. For Curtin, “his country was his pride, his brother man his cause.” And that epitaph speaks as powerfully about the man as his speeches spoke of his vision for our nation. Friends, Paul Keating once said that one of the most important tasksof a leader is to interpret the future to the present, and John Curtin was the master of that skill. He united our country in accepting the short-term sacrifices of war to pave the way for a better future. Curtin spoke plainly to the nation when he said: There can be no going back to the good old days. They were not good days and they have truly become old.

We have to point the way to better days. As a former journalist, he was respected by the Canberra Press Gallery and worked with them to share his un-compromising message with a sometimes reluctant nation - the message that Australia needed fundamental reform in the economy, immigration, education and welfare. Above all, that we had to chart our own direction as an independent nation, looking to new allies and new strategic circumstances. Friends, if Curtin was a great Australian, he was a great West Australian too. That is why in accepting the honour of being a patron for the place, I share that patronage, very fittingly, with the Premier of this State, Mr Barnett. Yes, Curtin was Labor to his core, but his call to shared sacrifice and commitment transcended partisan bonds and resonated in every Australian home and every Australian heart. The presence of Mr Barnett - and the fact that this house was magnanimously purchased by two Liberal leaders, John Howard and Richard Court - marks how greatly the Curtin legacy is treasured in this State. Curtin was not born here but came here later in life, at age 32, to take up a new job and to marry his beloved Elsie. He loved his adopted State as his own, and would have taken great delight in its achievements today fulfilling in its confident prosperity his hopes Perhaps because his home and his heart were here in the West he understood in his bones the effort needed to draw this vast country together during the war. Or, as he so eloquently put it: “...during the twilight through which inevitably we have to pass before the dawn can come.” John Curtin lived in a time when a Prime Minister could have his home phone number and address listed in the phone book, as he did until his death. A time when a Prime Minister had no security guards and could leave his front door unlocked, so constituents could come and voice their concerns. A very different time indeed. But the lessons that John Curtin taught us, of leadership and integrity and courage in adversity, are just as relevant today. This house is a symbol of John and Elsie Curtin's unwavering commitment to a decent, simple, honest life. A life filled with hardship, and a life lived for others. I hope this place serves as a constant reminder that, despite the lack of worldly trappings, this was home to a just and good man and a very great leader. I congratulate the National Trust of Western Australia and John Curtin's descendents for bringing this project to fruition, presenting an enduring story to a new generation. The Curtin family home is a national treasure by virtue of the family that inhabited it. A simple bungalow that bespeaks the inner grandeur of this man better than any mansion or palace. I proudly declare the refurbished Curtin home officially open and dedicate it to the nation in whose service he lived and for whose future he died.

Transcript 17767