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This Day in History

Australian History

Wednesday, June 13, 1951. :   Former Australian Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, dies.

     Ben Chifley was born Joseph Benedict Chifley on 22 September 1885 in Bathurst, New South Wales. He was raised largely by his grandfather, and joined the railways at age 15. Moving up to the position of engine driver, he became one of the founders of the engine drivers' union, the AFULE, and was actively involved in the Australian Labor Party. In 1928, Chifley won the Bathurst-based seat of Macquarie in the House of Representatives, and in 1931 he became Minister for Defence, under Scullin. He lost his seat again shortly afterwards when the Scullin government fell, but regained it in 1940, becoming Treasurer in Curtin's government.

Curtin died in July 1945, and Chifley defeated Forde in the leadership ballot to become Australia's 16th Prime Minister. He implemented necessary post-war economic controls, remaining Prime Minister until his defeat by Robert Menzies and the Liberal Party in 1949. Two years later, on 13 June 1951, Chifley died of a heart attack.

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