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Friday 22 July 2022

Walking in the footsteps of political giants

It is unlikely any guests at the Hotel Kurrajong in Canberra will stay as long as the hotel's highest-profile former resident.

Former Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley spent 11 years living at the Kurrajong, preferring it to The Lodge as his residence.

Australia's 16th Prime Minister is credited with giving Australia the Snowy Mountain Hydro Electric Scheme; establishing Qantas, the Australian National University, and the CSIRO; as well as establishing ASIO.

A stay at the Hotel Kurrajong offers a glimpse into Chifley's world – and history buffs now have a chance to retrace the footsteps of the man who was instrumental in shaping the development of Canberra and Australia.

Chifley's Walk, which launched today, is the brainchild of teams from Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) and the Hotel Kurrajong, and an accompaniment for those who've sampled a Benny's Double in Chifley's Bar & Grill or spent a night in the hotel's curated 'Chifley Room'.

The 45-minute tour starts with a 750-metre stroll retracing the footsteps of then Treasurer Chifley and his PM, John Curtin, as they walked from the hotel to Parliament House each day – a habit that was captured by photographer Don Stephens in 1945.

When Curtin died, Chifley continued the tradition.

MoAD's Andrea Garcia says Chifley's Walk allows visitors to deepen their understanding of Old Parliament House by exploring the places where important decisions were made - King's Hall, the House of Representatives and the Prime Minister's Office.

“The synergy between Hotel Kurrajong and Old Parliament House helped inspire the walk,” she said.

“Hotel Kurrajong first opened in 1926 and Old Parliament House in 1927 - both were designed by John Smith Murdoch providing a residence and a working place to Members of Parliament in the nation's capital.”

Did you know, for example, that Chifley was the only Australian PM to qualify as a train driver? Or that he died whilst he was Leader of the Opposition?

“History well and truly comes to life as we retrace the well-worn path that Ben Chifley walked during the 11 years he resided at Hotel Kurrajong, including the time he served as Prime Minister, and the route other parliamentarians have since followed during the 61 years Old Parliament House housed the Parliament,” Garcia said.

Available exclusively for guests of Hotel Kurrajong for a nominal $20 fee for adults and included as part of the hotel's Chifley Experience package, Chifley's Walk runs every Monday to Sunday at 10am. Book via the hotel's website.

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