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Australian politician and twice premier of New South Wales, Jack Lang (1876-1975), was in kinship care as a child.

John Thomas Lang was born in Sydney to James Lang of Edinburgh and Mary Whelan of Ireland. When Jack was born, James Lang was working as a watchmaker.

During the 1880s, James Lang became ill and the family lived in poverty. Because of the problems at home, Jack was sent to live with relatives in Bairnsdale, a rural city in the East Gippsland region of Victoria. He was there for about four years and attended the local convent school.

On his return to Sydney, Jack continued his schooling at St Francis Marist Brothers’ School while bringing in some money selling newspapers. He then worked a variety of working-class jobs before marrying at the age of nineteen; he became an accountant’s clerk in a real estate office three years later. From there he set up his own real estate business, after first managing one in Auburn, then a semi-rural area, now a suburb in western Sydney.

Jack Lang entered the NSW parliament in 1913 representing Granville. He worked his way into leadership and led the Australian Labor Party to a narrow victory in May 1925.

Jack Lang served two periods as premier: from 1925 to 1927, and 1930-32. His government is remembered for “child endowment payments, widows’ pensions and a workers’ compensation act” (Monument Australia).

The dismissal of Premier Jack Lange in 1932 by the NSW Governor, Philip Game, is considered the first constitutional crisis in Australia. Early in 1931, Jack Lang had released the “the Lang Plan” to mitigate the effects of the Great Depression. A key part of the plan was to cease interest payments on government loans from British financiers. After the NSW Government defaulted on its interest payments for a second time in February 1932, the Joseph Lyons’ Federal Government legislated to require all state revenue be paid to the Federal Commonwealth.

In a pre-emptive move, Lang ordered that New South Wales assets be withdrawn from the banks and kept in the Treasury vaults. The public service was instructed to forward revenue to the Treasury which became a de facto bank (The Australian Business Excecutive).

Financial chaos and growing community unrest led to Lang’s dismissal by Game:

Some have argued that Game’s action was improper as the alleged illegaility of Lang’s actions could have been resolved by the courts. Others argue that more attention should be paid to the realities than the legalities in assessing the Governor’s action. New South Wales was close to being ungovernable. The economic situation was catastrophic. Bloodshed in the streets seemed imminent. In the circumstances, Game had to act quickly (The Australian Business Excecutive).

Jack Lang continued to lead the Labor Opposition until 1939.  He subsequently served in the Federal parliament from 1946 to 1949, but was expelled from the Australian Labor Party in 1943 and not re-admitted until 1971.

During retirement, Jack Lang wrote several books about his political career. He also engaged in extensive public speaking in schools and universities in the late 60’s and early 70’s before his death in 1975.


Clune, David. “Jack lang, NSW’s most tumultuous Premier.” The Australian Business Executive, 28 April 2023. 

“Jack Lang.” Monument Australia.—state/display/20130-jack-lang

Maloney, Shane & Grosz, Chris. “Paul Keating & Jack Lang.” The Monthly, 2009.

Nairn, Bede. “John Thomas (Jack) 1876-1975).”  Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 9 (1983).

Image available here.