6 November 2023

Awards night celebrates contributions and achievements of Canberra's community clubs

| Morgan Kenyon
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group of people on stage with awards

Thoroughbred Park were big winners at the recent ClubsACT 2023 Clubs and Community Awards. Photo: ClubsACT.

If you’ve ever enjoyed a club dinner at your local or arranged your week around a footy game, these are the people behind it.

Canberra’s many clubs have welcomed and served the community in good stead for decades and this year has been no different. The best local initiatives in community, education, sustainability and service were put on show to prove it at the ClubsACT Clubs and Community Awards Presentation and Dinner held at the Ainslie Football Club at the end of last month.

The 2023 awards night celebrated the contributions and achievements of the Canberra community clubs and their staff, recognising their contribution to sport, community development and wellbeing, diversity and social inclusion, hospitality innovation, arts and culture, sustainability and environment, and emerging talent.

CEO Craig Shannon said recognising passionate ClubsACT members is a highlight of his year, and that their efforts should not be lost on the thousands of Canberrans who access them each day.

“We are very proud of our members and all that they achieve. It’s important to remember that every one of our clubs is a not-for-profit, generating returns solely for community benefit,” he said.

“Club boards volunteer their time simply because they have a vested interest in the club’s role or the ethos it represents, whether that is sporting, cultural or social.

“This is why it’s so important that we acknowledge the work Canberran clubs put in as safe, warm, connected and inclusive community facilities.”

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Thoroughbred Park was thrilled to be announced as the winner of the Heart of the Community – Small Club award. The team also won two individual awards, including Emerging Talent – Employee of the Year (Elizabeth Francis) and Individual Service to the Industry (Ken Lewis).

“We are passionate about being a force for good in the Canberra community so to have been selected from what was a wonderful group of nominees is incredibly special,” Thoroughbred Park CEO Darren Pearce said.

“We seek to be a source of pride and opportunity for Canberra, and this recognition reflects that the efforts of our club and its staff are acknowledged and appreciated by the community that we serve.

“We really treasure these awards and it fuels us to dream of even bigger initiatives for the years ahead.”

group of people on stage with awards

Ainslie Group were multiple winners, taking home awards for Heart of the Community – Large Club, Sustainability and Environment, and Contribution to Community Sport, Development and Wellbeing. Photo: ClubsACT.

Ainslie Group was another big winner, taking home the Heart of the Community – Large Club, Sustainability and Environment, and Contribution to Community Sport, Development and Wellbeing awards.

“To say we are delighted is far beneath our level of elation,” Ainslie Group said.

“We extend our gratitude to ClubsACT for hosting the night, to all of our industry peers for being part of the collective that continues to contribute to playing a crucial part in our communities.

“To our members, we thank you all for being part of our journey and part of our fabric, that allows us to give back to you all.”

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Craig personally congratulated both winners of the coveted Heart of the Community Award for their showcase of great leadership.

“Thoroughbred Park has worked hard to find new and unique lanes of support for community members across the region, in particular local artists, producers and retailers,” he said.

“Ainslie Group are very involved in championing diversity and equality, especially through their pride rounds and support of Women’s and Indigenous sporting teams.

“Both clubs are innovating and engaging broadly within their direct communities and those that exist beyond them. They are true role models for the rest of Canberra’s club industry.”


  • Arts & Culture: Irish Club – for their story “Céad Míle Fáilte – A Hundred Thousand Welcomes”
  • Hospitality Innovation: Vikings Group – for their story “Embracing the digital age”
  • Contribution to Sport, Community Development & Wellbeing: Ainslie Group – Hospitality Innovation – for their story “Ainslie’s Female Empire”
  • Celebrating Diversity & Social Inclusion: Eastlake Group – for their story “One Group Many Cultures”
  • Education, Learning & Development: Vikings Group – For their story – “Building Hospitality Careers to be Proud of”
  • Sustainability & Environment: Ainslie Group – For their Story “Spearheading Sustainability with Solar Energy at Gungahlin Lakes Golf & Community Club”
  • Emerging Talent – Employee of the year: Thoroughbred Park – Elizabeth Francis – For her story “University Graduate to Industry Leader”
  • Emerging Talent – Employee of the Year: Vikings Group – Karin Kaeser – For her story “Creating a destination for our community to gather”
  • Individual Service to the Industry: Thoroughbred Park – Ken Lewis – For his story “Loyal Servant of the Canberra Racing Club”
  • Recognition of Service to the Industry Award: Canberra Southern Cross Club – Ian Mackay
  • Heart of the Community (Small Club): Thoroughbred Park
  • Heart of the Community (Large Club): Ainslie Group

Highly Commended

  • Hospitality Innovation – Highly Commended: Canberra Southern Cross Club – for their story “Contactless & Outdoor Dining”
  • Celebrating Diversity & Social Inclusion – Highly Commended: Harmonie German Club – for their story “Harmonie Club – A Multicultural Epicentre”
  • Sustainability & Environment – Highly Commended: The RUC – for their story “The RUC is an Energy Star”

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