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How the Canberra Irish Club turned its fortunes around

Tim Gavel 22 November 2019 48
Canberra Irish Club

Canberra Irish Club at Weston Creek. Photos: Supplied.

About 18 months ago, things weren’t looking good for the Canberra Irish Club. After six years of losses their financial position was looking dire.

In fact, it was so dire, the Club that has been operating out of its Weston Creek premises since 1986 was, according to President Mary Collier, on the brink of folding.

“We were very close to closing our doors,” remembers Mary. “Other clubs were circling, looking to take it over.”

It was at this point that the board decided on a course of action that would reinvigorate the club.

Mary Collier, President of the Canberra Irish Club. Photo: Supplied.

Mary Collier, President of the Canberra Irish Club and one of six women on the Club’s board.

They opted to return to the origins of why the club was established in the first place – as Canberra’s home of Irish culture, fostering Irish/Australian relations. It effectively gave the club a point of difference with Irish film nights, Irish dances, Irish music and an Irish cultural festival. This became the focus to get people back to the club for very grounded reasons.

“We’re different from other clubs. We want people to get an Irish experience,” says Mary.

The result has been a significant turnaround in the fortunes of the Irish Club. “We had losses for seven straight years and this financial year we made a profit. People who drifted away are now coming back.”

Vice-president Shauna Lodding, now in her third year on the board, says it’s great to have a profit for the first time in eight years.

“I wouldn’t say we are totally out of the woods. We still have debt to pay off but we are heading in the right direction.”

Shauna Lodding. Photo: Supplied.

Shauna Lodding, Vice-president of the Canberra Irish Club.

Shauna, a third-generation Australian of Irish heritage, says the board is made up of people who are passionate about the community.

She says she became involved after a long association with the club. “Our family have been members for many years. It’s our local community club. When I saw things weren’t going well, I wanted to help turn things around.”

Another point of difference at the Irish Club is the number of women on the board with six of the nine board members being women, which is unusual in an industry usually dominated by men.

“It’s about having a passion. Whether you are male or female, it doesn’t matter,” says Shauna, who acknowledges that “traditionally in the club industry there haven’t been a lot of women involved”.

It would appear as though this combination of a board prepared to make tough decisions, an astute manager, and a desire within the community for a unique experience has turned around the fortunes of the club.


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48 Responses to How the Canberra Irish Club turned its fortunes around
Lyn Kemp Lyn Kemp 7:36 am 22 Nov 19

Just shows what women can do. More power to you ladies !!! 👍👍

Angie Carey Angie Carey 9:02 am 22 Nov 19

The Irish Club is a great little community club. It is a pity that Woden Tradies didn't tranfer it's membership when it closed to the Irish Club. Instead it opted to support the monolithic Hellanic Club which didn't need the extra boost from membership.

    John Moulis John Moulis 10:20 am 22 Nov 19

    Woden Tradies cut their own throats when they kicked the 83 Restaurant out and replaced it with poker machines. Families started going to the Burns Club which started the Star Buffet.

Michael Welfare Michael Welfare 10:35 am 22 Nov 19

Shauna Lodding well done! We're thinking we need to join and check it out again. Changed a lot since we had our wedding reception there many many years ago!

Pandy Pandy 10:58 am 22 Nov 19

Good on them.

One only has to see how popular Irish music and dancing (throw in Scottish too) interstate is: Celtic Festivals in Port Arlington, Glenn Innes, Ringwood, Bundanoon and Beechworth to name a few.

Francisco Antonio Vega Francisco Antonio Vega 12:20 pm 22 Nov 19

It's all about the board and how they can turn the club around. I have seen clubs go from $20,000 in debt to $50,0000 net within a year and a half. Its all about taking action to bring people in eg festivities, restaurant menus, private event bookings etc

    Tracey Backhouse Tracey Backhouse 7:09 pm 22 Nov 19

    Francisco Antonio Vega it’s about employing good management full stop as well as having a committed passionate board, the Irish club has always thrived when it has a good GM who appreciates the culture of members and patrons. Well done Shauna, it’s been your influence.

    Francisco Antonio Vega Francisco Antonio Vega 10:45 pm 22 Nov 19

    Tracey Backhouse exactly my point

    John Mcginty John Mcginty 5:02 am 23 Nov 19

    Get the rebel music on💚💚👍

Pat Smart Pat Smart 12:38 pm 22 Nov 19

Georgie Porgie since you moved in

geetee geetee 1:05 pm 22 Nov 19

Good to hear they are turning things around. There were some very strange decisions made 10 or so years ago, when they kept moving things (eg location of restaurant) which couldn’t have been cheap and then moved it back to where it was. Plus some not-so-great staff.

Shayno Ulrick Shayno Ulrick 1:07 pm 22 Nov 19

Love going their for lunch.

Bailey Jones-Lewis Bailey Jones-Lewis 1:46 pm 22 Nov 19

Jack Hickson Tom Hunt Nick Jervis-Hamilton

Thank god

Karlie Daley Karlie Daley 2:16 pm 22 Nov 19

Lyndsey Simcoe we should go to da club one night ☘️

Jonty Fahey Jonty Fahey 5:11 pm 22 Nov 19

Jack Ryan Penny Stock is this where we went for trivia one time?

    Jack Ryan Jack Ryan 5:24 pm 22 Nov 19

    Jonty Fahey it was an excellent choice of venue for trivia, unsurprising because I chose it

    Hass Kayani Hass Kayani 5:50 pm 22 Nov 19

    Best pub ive ever been too... thank you for the invite!!

Rod Finnigan Rod Finnigan 6:58 pm 22 Nov 19

I remember when it was called the Teacher's Club 👍

Wilson Butterworth Wilson Butterworth 7:48 pm 22 Nov 19

More chilly paying again.

Kim Ulrick Kim Ulrick 7:57 pm 22 Nov 19

Great club

Leigh Merrington Leigh Merrington 10:41 pm 22 Nov 19

Alison Merrington is this your old local?

Catherine Alexander Catherine Alexander 11:11 pm 22 Nov 19

Well done Canberra Irish Club. Great little venue full of big hearts.

Jane Slack-Smith Jane Slack-Smith 11:25 pm 22 Nov 19

Monday night member steak nights are the best goddamn value. Who wants to cook on a Monday (bar public holidays). It's a staple.

The staff are the best people and remember you. This place is it.

Helen Lyons Helen Lyons 6:54 am 23 Nov 19

Well done to all involved at the Irish Club - we too have had a long association with the club and it is great to hear of the success.

Eve Cullen Eve Cullen 3:11 pm 23 Nov 19

A lot of hard work from all involved, board and staff. Thanks for all your efforts, great news story.

Kirsten Whatson Kirsten Whatson 7:38 pm 23 Nov 19

Trevor Keatch

Show Martin x

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