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Ben Chifley (1885 – 1951) was a railway engine-driver who became Australia’s best-loved Prime Minister in 1945. He was a politician who lived by principles of compassion and concern for his fellow Australians. His philosophy and example have never been more relevant than in the political arena of today.
As Prime Minister and Treasurer, he had a profound effect on the path of Australian history following World War Two, and many advantages enjoyed in our society that we take for granted today are the product of his vision. This film is an exercise in “People’s History”: an attempt to find and share the communal memory of Ben and his wife, Elizabeth, that lives on in their hometown of Bathurst, New South Wales.
Chifley’s extraordinary compassion and idealism are still treasured fifty years after his death. In Bathurst, stories about the Chifleys are treasured memories, valued almost as family heirlooms to be passed on from generation to generation. Simple, everyday artefacts – a tea cosy or an old pipe – can carry a special meaning. Similarly, places which seem “ordinary” but are associated with the Chifleys, such as their simple terrace home on Busby Street or the railway community meeting hall where Ben studied and taught, have strong meaning.
In this film, the stories and memories of over fifty friends, neighbours and colleagues contribute to an emotional and eloquent portrait of a remarkable community and a national leader.