26 February 2023

Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt to bow out after two 'remarkable' years

| Dione David
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Graham Catt

After two challenging years, Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt is stepping down. Photos: Canberra Business Chamber.

The Canberra Business Chamber board has announced that its CEO Graham Catt will step down from his role in April to take up a new position as the CEO of Independent Schools Australia (ISA), the national peak body for the independent school sector.

Appointed in January 2020, it was a baptism of fire for Mr Catt, who presided over a challenging period as the chamber and its members weathered unprecedented challenges.

“At the time, I came into the role when we were in the throes of the bushfires, with smoke hazes and the region as a whole recovering. That was much of my initial focus – helping businesses deal with that extreme weather event,” Mr Catt said.

“Then the hailstorms hit, doing millions in damage. And at that stage we were just hearing murmurs of something called the novel coronavirus in China …

“This is the environment through which I had to lead the chamber; it’s what has shaped my tenure there.”

READ ALSO Why the Canberra Business Chamber isn’t just for big businesses

Describing it as a “remarkable” period, Mr Catt said the chamber had been instrumental in helping businesses introduce alternative operational procedures that would allow them to trade during lockdowns, such as click and collect, and in shifting restrictions. However, it was clear what the chamber’s greatest accomplishment was during his time.

“It’s been really important these last few years that we helped our whole community – not just the government and media, but all of us – understand the importance of businesses in Canberra,” he said. ”That meant making sure, especially through the challenges of the past couple of years, that the community really understood what business looked like in the nation’s capital.

“The perspective that Canberra operates solely in a public sector bubble is false – 63 per cent of jobs here are private sector jobs. It’s small businesses, family-owned businesses; it’s people, really.

“To successfully tell that story to the community as a whole and to be successful at getting change in government policy so businesses are better supported, that’s what it’s been all about.”

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Chamber chairman Archie Tsirimokos praised Mr Catt’s leadership in the chamber and the business community over this volatile period.

“Graham led the chamber and the business community through these [challenges], advocating tirelessly for business and fostering greater community, media and government recognition of the contribution the private sector makes to Canberra,” he said.

“Despite the turbulent operating environment, our membership has increased and Graham successfully restructured operations to reduce costs, create opportunities to increase income and use our resources more efficiently to deliver value for members.”

Mr Catt said he was grateful for the honour of serving Canberra’s business community in the role.

“I’ve enjoyed and greatly valued my time with the chamber, which has given me an enormous respect for the diversity and impact of the ACT private sector,” he said.

“It has been a privilege to serve as a voice for the local business community.

“I’d like to thank the board and our chairman Archie Tsirimokos, who have helped guide the chamber through an often-difficult time.”

Graham Catt

“It has been a privilege to serve as a voice for the local business community” – Mr Catt will stay on until April, then move into his new role as CEO for Independent Schools Australia (ISA).

Mr Catt said while the decision to move on had been difficult, he was confident the chamber would continue to perform outstandingly in its purpose.

“The chamber team is passionate about supporting our members, and they harness the goodwill and energy of the business community to consistently deliver outcomes that exceed expectations,” he said.

“While there are challenging times ahead for business, I’m confident that the chamber is in a strong position and ready for a change of leadership.”

He added that it was “a time of great challenge and opportunity for Australia and globally”, to which he hoped to make meaningful contributions in his new role.

“I’m excited to have been offered the opportunity to contribute to the national agenda as the CEO of Independent Schools Australia,” he said.

“School education is key to our future development as a nation, and with two school-aged daughters, my passion for good policy outcomes in this area is personal as well as professional.”

The board will undertake a recruitment process to find Mr Catt’s successor to lead the chamber through its next stage of development.

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