Chifley neighbourhood comes to life

27 MARCH 2003

A passion for public history has resulted in a valuable guide to the life and times of popular Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley and his wife Elizabeth.

A passion for public history has resulted in a valuable guide to the life and times of popular Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley and his wife Elizabeth.

While studying the history strand for her Bachelor of Arts degree at Charles Sturt University, Deborah Withington discovered the need for something that would make what was traditionally the working-class neighbourhood of the Chifley family home come alive.

For people coming to view the Busby Street house there is often a lengthy wait as only a small number can be accommodated inside the “working class” cottage at any one time. Realising this, Deborah set about researching and compiling facts on the surrounding area and the result is “A self-guided tour and social history of Elizabeth and Ben’s Neighbourhood”.

Very much a railway community known then as Milltown, now South Bathurst, this is the area in which the Chifleys grew up and lived throughout their lives. Even after becoming Prime Minister, Ben and his wife kept their modest home with Ben returning from Canberra when time permitted.

As part of a subject taught by CSU senior lecturer Dr Rob McLachlan, Deborah has produced a fascinating, historical account of the surrounding homes and landmarks and their connections with Chifleys. In particular it gives an intimate glimpse of Elizabeth’s life during her husband’s public years.

Launched on Monday 24 March at Chifley Cottage in conjunction with an oral history project marking the 30th anniversary of the house becoming a museum, the guide is available at the Bathurst Visitors Centre. In May, Deborah will be conducting a series of tours based on the guide entitled “Over the fence with the Chifleys”.    

In addition to studying by distance education, Deborah also work full-time at the CSU Bathurst Campus. 

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