The Chifley Memorial Housing Estate
Sue Martin has written in her Chifley family memoir of her great uncle, Ben Chifley, of the time when he was asked how he would like to be remembered. Chifley’s reply was that he would not want any sort of monument to be erected in his memory, but instead he would rather that low cost housing be built for people who needed it. He felt it was the right of everyone to live in a house of a reasonable standard. (Sue Martin, Remembering Ben Chifley 2015, p.223)
His wish was met not long after his death. On 20 February 1954, with over 1200 people attending, Elizabeth Chifley officially opened the NSW Housing Commission estate in West Bathurst named in her husband’s honour. In her speech, Elizabeth said “no better memorial” could be offered her late husband, who took “a deep interest in social improvement". With 57 family homes completed and more to come, Elizabeth reflected on how this housing would provide children with “better chances and better opportunities through the influence of a stable and settled life”. Ben would have agreed with Liz.
However, Ben Chifley may have had reservations about the bronze bust of his visage unveiled later that day by Dr Evatt, ALP leader in Parliament. The bust, sculpted by Keith Palmer, sits in Chifley Park, on the edge of the housing estate along Commonwealth Street. The estate streets were given names associated with Ben Chifley’s life. For example, Macquarie Street was named after his electorate and McKenzie Street after Elizabeth’s family name.
An artist’s impression of The Chifley Memorial Housing Estate hangs in the Sitting Room at Chifley Home. The framed ink and watercolour drawing was given to Elizabeth Chifley by Gus Kelly, an old ALP comrade of Ben and Bathurst’s NSW State Representative.