This year marks 45 years since Canberra’s community clubs received a united voice, and there’s no sign of it losing its strength.
ClubsACT is the peak association representing the interests of the ACT’s not-for-profit licenced club industry, with aggregate memberships well above 500,000 across the local region.
It was established on 12 July, 1976, as the Licenced Clubs Association of the ACT, and initially comprised six clubs including the Canberra Southern Cross Club, a country club, a workers club and a few sporting clubs.
In 1997, 34 clubs came together to push the approvals through for poker machines.
Since then, the number of clubs onboard has exploded and, in 2000, the association’s name was changed to ClubsACT.
At around the same time, it helped establish the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission, which regulates lotteries, gaming machines, raffles and trade promotions on behalf of the ACT Government.
The organisation’s mission has remained the same since it was formed.
In much the same way as a union serves an industry, ClubsACT is an advocate to myriad local licenced clubs, giving them a stronger, united voice on issues that can then be taken further up the chain.
Craig Shannon has been CEO of ClubsACT since April 2021, although he is no newbie to Canberra. He was born in the city as a sixth-generation local and has spent most of his life in the ACT.
“I joined my first club in Canberra at the age of 18,” he says.
“Several years later, in my 20s, I had the privilege of being elected as a director of Canberra Labor Club where I first started to appreciate the diverse role clubs play across the community, and the challenges involved in running, maintaining and developing a club.”
Craig served a stint as the chief of staff for the Western Australia Police Force, before returning to the ACT as the CEO of People with Disabilities ACT.
With his previous work in the community sector, ClubsACT seemed a natural fit.
ClubsACT makes submissions and representations to the ACT Government and its agencies on all issues that affect the club movement. Licenced clubs come on as members, while organisations that supply goods and services to such clubs can become partners.
At the coalface, ClubsACT provides a range of services to its members, including utility offers, workplace relations advice and administration assistance.
It also delivers additional publications, seminars and networking events, including its annual Clubs & Community Awards dinner to recognise and celebrate the achievements of local clubs.
Craig describes 2021 as “an interesting time”, with COVID-19 having left clubs with the need for a helping hand.
“In these times, the important role members of ClubsACT play in supporting the community spirit in Canberra is even more fundamental, and will be important for the recovery of our community on the other side,” he says.
“The role community clubs play as meeting and gathering places for their members, families and their friends importantly contributes to our community spirit and cohesion.”
As for the future, ClubsACT hopes to pursue greater emphasis on mental health and wellbeing.
Pen was put to paper regarding this when ClubsACT signed a memorandum of understanding with the ACT Branch of the Pharmacy Guild in August 2021. The agreement is primarily about assisting the guild’s 75 community pharmacies to play a part in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, but ideally it will blossom into long-term results within the health sector.
Craig says ClubsACT has also turned its attention to the areas of education and employment.
For more information on what ClubsACT does and how to get involved, visit ClubsACT.