Ben Chifley on stage in his home town

Wednesday 21 Jul 2004

From train driver to Prime Minister, Ben Chifley has long been regarded as an icon of the Australian Labor Party and now noted author, essayist and playwright Bob Ellis is bringing his life to the stage in his home town of Bathurst in the NSW Central West. 

Co-written with historian Robin McLachlan, A Local Man will premiere in Bathurst on Friday 6 August in the historic 100-seat Ponton Theatre located at Charles Sturt University (CSU).

Through a series of Visiting Artist Grants, CSU has been instrumental in the play’s development.

The role of Chifley is being played by film, television and stage character actor Tony Barry under the direction of Bill Blaikie, a CSU-based theatre director and educator.

Late in the afternoon of 9 June, 1951 in his modest home in Bathurst, Ben returns to write a key speech he is to deliver the following day at the ALP conference in Sydney. Having recently led his party to its second defeat at the polls, it is a time of challenge for the Labor leader. The dreams Ben Chifley had for post-war Australia lie shattered and his health is failing.  His life now seems but an epilogue to earlier times of aspiration and power. It is a time for decisions. It is equally a time for reflection by Chifley on his life as a national political leader and as a man - a local man. 

Ben Chifley died in Canberra on 13 June, 1951.

The 90 minute Bathurst Arts Council production of A Local Man runs until Sunday, 15 August. Tickets are $20 or $15 concession and group bookings of 10 or more. 

Tickets are now on sale from Books Plus in Bathurst on telephone (02) 6331 5994 or email


Media contact: Elizabeth Heath, 02 6338 4787

Media Note:
A Local Man co-author Robin McLachlan, director Bill Blaikie and actor Tony Barry will be available for interview and photos at 10am, Tuesday 27 July at the Ponton Theatre, CSU, Panorama Avenue, Bathurst.