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Commemorative Medallion from the 29th International Eucharistic Congress that belonged to Arthur Calwell #2010-0261

Small circular metal medallion. Obverse has an image of Pope Pius XI; reverse has an image of St Mary’s Cathedral and the inscription ‘29TH INTERNATIONAL EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS, SYDNEY SEPT 1928’.

History

This medallion is part of a collection of objects that belonged to Arthur Calwell, Australia’s first Minister for Immigration (1945-49) that were donated to the museum by his daughter, Dr Mary Elizabeth Calwell.

This medallion belonged to Calwell and was issued in 1928 to commemorate the International Eucharistic Congress held in Sydney (that Calwell attended), a major event in the history of Australian Catholicism. Its ‘vast assemblages’ were the subject of ‘vigorous Protestant criticism’, in the words of historian Patrick O’Farrell (O’Farrell, 1977). Although primarily an event in Australian religious history, such public demonstrations of the extent and loyalty of Catholicism in Australia had a substantial impact on the highly sectarian politics of the period, in which the Catholic Church’s close association with the Australian Labor Party became a matter of trenchant public debate.

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Statement of values

This medallion is significant as part of the Arthur Calwell collection, which is comprised of a selection of objects that belonged to Australia’s first Minister for Immigration (1945-49), Arthur Calwell. The collection is significant as a whole because it tells a story about a leading Commonwealth parliamentarian of the middle decades of the twentieth century and includes highly personal material which tells of Calwell?s family life, his life-long involvement in Labor politics, and his personal religious convictions. The Arthur Calwell collection at the museum uniquely links the personal with the political, thus affording an opportunity to conduct research which tells a rounded story of this important parliamentarian.

This medallion is significant as a souvenir of an important event in the early history of Calwell, symbolising the importance of religion in his life. Already a member of the Victorian Australian Labor Party Executive, and highly active in Victorian trade union affairs, Calwell’s involvement with this event testifies to the central importance of his identity as a Roman Catholic layman. It was also to be significant in his personal life as the occasion for the reaffirmation of his feelings for Elizabeth Marren, who was to become his second wife.

Reference:

Calwell, Arthur, Be just and fear not, Victoria: Hawthorn, 1972.

Kiernan, Colm, Calwell: a personal and political biography, Melbourne: Thomas Nelson, 1978.

O?Farrell, Patrick, The Catholic Church and Community in Australia: A History, Melbourne: Thomas Nelson, 1977.

  • Commemorative Medallion from the 29th International Eucharistic Congress that belonged to Arthur Calwell - obverseCommemorative Medallion from the 29th International Eucharistic Congress that belonged to Arthur Calwell - obverse —
  • Commemorative Medallion from the 29th International Eucharistic Congress that belonged to Arthur Calwell - reverseCommemorative Medallion from the 29th International Eucharistic Congress that belonged to Arthur Calwell - reverse —

Details

Width 40mm
Height 53mm
Depth 10mm
Medium Metal
Creator’s name Mr W. J. Amor
Date created Circa 1928