God in the Lodge - Religious Beliefs of Australia's Prime Ministers WEA Sydney

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Most of Australia’s leaders since Federation believed in God. Some were serious Christians and very few were indifferent towards religion. In this new course, Roy Williams explores the spiritual life of each of our prime ministers from Edmund Barton to Anthony Albanese. He will focus on the most influential figures of the twentieth century – Deakin, Fisher, Hughes, Lyons, Curtin, Menzies, Whitlam, Hawke, Keating, Howard – to show how their individual beliefs shaped the nation, for both good and ill. The course will conclude with an examination of the largely lamentable records of the twenty-first century leaders, from Howard (post-2000) to Albanese.




  • Roy Williams, In God They Trust? The religious beliefs of Australia’s prime ministers 1901-2013 (Bible Society Australia, 2013)


  • The “birth” of Australia – Federation, nation-building, and the rise of the two-party system (Barton, Deakin, Watson, Reid, Fisher, Cook)
  • World War I, the Great Depression, and the dark legacies of each (Fisher, Hughes, Bruce, Scullin, Lyons)
  • World War II and the post-war era – struggle, victory, the Cold War, reconstruction, immigration (Curtin, Chifley, Menzies, Holt, Gorton, McMahon)
  • The making of modern Australia – the age of reform (Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating, Howard)
  • The post-modern era – tragedies, missteps, lost opportunities (Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Turnbull, Morrison, Albanese)


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Gain an understanding of the content of the religious beliefs of each individual prime minister from Barton to Albanese (e.g., Christian or agnostic, Protestant or Catholic, orthodox or liberal, committed or nominal).
  2. Gain an appreciation of the role of individual faith in the career of each prime minister (e.g., Deakin’s enlightened deism, Fisher’s respectable Presbyterianism, Curtin’s lapsed Catholicism, Menzies’ ecumenical Protestantism, Whitlam’s and Hawke’s informed agnosticism)
  3. Gain an understanding of the link between each leaders’ brand of faith and specific public policy outcomes (e.g., Hughes’ jingoistic, unmerciful Anglicanism during World War One and the conscription plebiscites of 1916-17; Lyons’ pacific Catholicism during the 1930s; Keating’s combative Irish-Catholic mindset during the age of reform)