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John (Jack) Thomas Lang

The Great Depression in Australia – the role of Jack Lang

  • To understand Jack Lang’s role in the troubled period of the Great Depression, you should have some understanding of the major developments of this time.
  • Read an historical outline of these events.
  • What was the Lang Plan? Why was it so controversial? Who opposed it and why?
    Look at Fig.1 ‘Unemployment rates in Australia from 1925-40’ located in the Junior History Resources - The Great Depression, 1929–1935 section (Note: you need to be a member of The History Teachers' Association of NSW to download this document)
    • In which year was unemployment at its highest?
    • How does this help to explain The Lang Plan for dealing with the Depression?
  • Find out about the other plans that were proposed to deal with the crisis of the Great Depression. They include: The Niemeyer Plan and the Premiers’ Plan.
    • How were these plans different from The Lang Plan? Why did Lang refuse to implement them?
  • Read the eye-witness account of Olive who was present at the Opening of the Bridge in 1932 when de Groot slashed the ribbon.
    • What was Olive’s occupation in 1932?
    • What is her assessment of Jack Lang?
    • Can you suggest a reason why Olive admires Lang?


  • Republicanism and the Bridge
    Jack Lang’s decision to open the Sydney Harbour Bridge, instead of a representative of the British monarch, has been labelled by some commentators as an indicator of his republican sentiments.
    • What is ‘republicanism’?
    • What do these sources have to say about this issue?
    • Do you agree that Lang was a republican? – download the Constructing Australia PDF and scroll down to ‘Republicanism and the Bridge’

John Bradfield and Jack Lang


Choose from the following to present an assessment of the contribution of either John Bradfield or Jack Lang to Australia’s development.

  • ‘This is Your Life’
    You are producing a program for TV to honour the life and work of John Bradfield or Jack Lang.
    • Choose at least 5 people who will be called upon to reflect on the life and achievements of the man. They could include family members, associates and other persons who have a particular perspective to offer.
    • Your program should include a range of differing perspectives, especially in relation to some of the controversial aspects of their career.

For example:

Jack Lang wrote the following about Bradfield in his autobiography:

Bradfield wanted to be the Napoleon III of Sydney. He wanted to pull down everything in the way of his grandiose schemes. He was always thinking of the future. He was probably the first man to plan for Sydney as a city of two million.

Jack Lang, I Remember, Invincible Press, 1965, cited in:

Sir Phillip Game wrote the following about Jack Lang in July 1932 two months after he had dismissed him from office:

In spite of the popular endorsement of my assassin’s stroke, I am still wondering if I did right. I still believe that Lang has a great deal of right on his side …

Source: P. Spearitt, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 7, Melbourne University Press, 1979, p 381.

Other assessments of Bradfield can be found at Bridging Sydney, Education Resource Kit, HHT. Refer to Activity 2 ‘John Bradfield – Chief Engineer of the Bridge Construction’ (a source-based investigation).


Use the information you have gained about either JJC Bradfield or Jack Lang to write an obituary of the man.

Your obituary could include:

  • a brief introduction indicating his importance in Australian history
  • an outline of the most significant events in his career
  • a more detailed discussion of one or two of the most controversial or noteworthy events
  • some reference to conflicting opinions or interpretations of his role in these events
  • a conclusion explaining his legacy to Australia. (Why they will be remembered)

Other sites that offer assessments of Lang

a notice of the death of a person, often with a biographical sketch, as in a newspaper

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