Farewell Jim Service, committed Canberran and community servant

Genevieve Jacobs 30 September 2021
John Haslem, Ita Buttrose, Jim Service

John Haslem, Ita Buttrose and Jim Service at the Canberra launch of an NGA appeal. Photo: ACT Heritage Library Administration Collection.

Jim Service, one of Canberra’s great contributors, has died at 88.

The former Canberran of the Year was an exceptionally successful businessman who never forgot his debt to the community.

Born in Sydney in 1933, he lived briefly in Fiji and was educated at Newington College where he was a scholarship winner and later served on the College’s foundation board.

Arriving in Canberra in 1964, he founded GKS Constructions Pty Ltd with Len Goodwin and Arthur Kenyon, building both the Jamison Centre and Kippax Fair before founding JG Service Pty Ltd in 1981.

The property consultancy, management and development company was successful nationally, but Jim and his family remained in Canberra where he was a stalwart of both the business community and philanthropy circles.

At various times, he was president of the ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce, national president of the Property Council of Australia, the Building Owners and Managers Association and chairman of the Australian Building Codes Board, chairman of ACTEW and the ActewAGL Joint Venture Partnerships Board, TransACT Communications Pty Limited and other industry bodies.

He chaired the ACT Advisory Board on Tourism, the National Museum board, the Canberra Theatre Trust and the National Gallery of Australia Foundation, had a lengthy involvement with the Salvation Army as chair of the ACT Advisory Board and was an active patron of many organisations.

Former chief minister Kate Carnell, who first worked with him before she entered politics, said Mr Service’s contribution to Canberra had been “absolutely amazing, obviously in the business sector but also in so many other areas.

“He did an enormous range of things for the community and mentored many people in the business community, me included. He was one of those people who has contributed over his whole life.

“As the family’s business grew significantly, he and James and the family stayed in Canberra although most of their business was no longer based here. But they stayed and gave to this community.

“He was committed to his home town and for me, that’s the story – staying here and giving back.”

Kate Carnell says Mr Service was always available for input or to run ideas past him. “That’s impressive for a very very successful business person. He didn’t have to do that”, she says.

Posting on Facebook, former ACTEW chairman John Mackay described Mr Service as “a great Canberran and a great Australian” who had been unstinting in his generosity to Canberra. “Among the many things I will miss will be his great companionship, especially at our regular fierce games of poker!!! Farewell my dear friend”, he said.

A fierce advocate for his adopted hometown, Mr Service inspired great loyalty from employees and was admired for his low-key approach to issues, preferring hard work to grandstanding.

Mr Service’s family survive him including his wife Dorothy, who has also been heavily involved in local philanthropy, and children James, Adrian, Cathy and Robert.


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