Our History

Canberra’s Business Chamber has been around for more than 70 years, and our local business community has been around for more than a century, well before Canberra itself was created.

The modern Canberra Business Chamber was formed in 2014 by the merger of two pre-existing bodies, the Canberra Business Council and the ACT & Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACT CCI).

The Business Council had been formed in 1979, and the ACT CCI was the latest name of the peak business and industry body that had existed since at least 1949.

Unfortunately the records and history of the ACT’s business community are patchy and incomplete, but the National Library of Australia indicates that the first organisation was the ACT Employers Association, which began publishing wages guidelines, newsletters, trader directories and other material for its members in 1949; other sources suggest it may in fact have begun as early as 1943. In subsequent years its name changed to the ACT Employers Federation (which is traded under in the 1960s and 1970s), and then to the Confederation of ACT Industry (in the 1980s and 1990s). In more recent years, it also used the trading name ACT & Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry.[1] The Confederation was one of the original founding members of the national Confederation of Australian Industry in 1977, which in turned merged with the Australian Chamber of Commerce in 1992 to form the modern-day peak national voice of business, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).[2]

Individual businesses

Well before it was chosen to be the seat of the federal government, the Limestone Plains district around Canberra was already home to a number of private agricultural enterprises, including Duntroon Estate and Duntroon Dairy.

Large scale private sector activity in the non-agricultural sphere began with the construction of the first commercial buildings in both Kingston and Manuka in 1925.[3]

Some of the oldest existing members of the Chamber today include Corkhill Brothers (established 1954), WR Engineering (1967), and Watson Blinds & Awnings (founded 1969).


1920s: Kingston, Manuka, Sydney Building & Melbourne Buildings open as first retail centres

1927: Federal Parliament opens in Canberra

1940s: ACT Employers Association formed

1979: Canberra Business Council formed

1984: 10,800 private sector businesses trading in the ACT, employing 54,000 people [4]

1989: Self government: ACT obtains its own government, Legislative Assembly, and right to make its own laws

2001: 20,700 businesses in Canberra, employing 100,000 people [5]

2004-2006: ACT Small Business Commissioner created by ACT government

2010-2012: Former ACT Chief Minister Kate Carnell serves as CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry

2010: 25,300 businesses in Canberra [6]

2014: Canberra Business Council and the Confederation of ACT Industry merge to form the Canberra Business Chamber

Chamber Chairs and CEOs

Canberra Business Chamber Chairs

2018-current: Archie Tsiromokis
2014-2018: Glenn Keys

Canberra Business Chamber CEOs

2018-current: Michael Schaper
2014-2018: Robyn Hendry

Canberra Business Council Chairs

2013-2014: Michelle Melbourne
2010 – 2013: Brand Hoff
2003 – 2010: Craig Sloan
2000 – 2003: Elizabeth Whitelaw
1994 – 1998: Denis Page
1993 – 1994: George Snow
1991 – 1993: John Hindmarsh
1989 – 1991: George Snow
1997 – 1989: Robin Schall

Canberra Business Council CEOs

2007 -2014: Chris Faulks
2003 – 2007: John Miller
2002 -2003: Helen Leayr
? – 2002: Dale Budd
1990-1997: Ossie Kleinig

Confederation/ACT Chamber Chairs

?-2014: Julian Barrington-Smith
Brendan Prout
Robert Mansfield
Ivan Culver
Lance Murray
Robin Schall
Robert Guthrie
Andrew Hickey
1985-1996: Bill Cleary

Confederation/ACT Chamber Executive Directors/CEOs

1997 – 2013: Christopher Peters
Michael Alves
Willian Roe
Michelle Morris
Ian Turley
John Dallas

Help us fill the gaps!

Do you know anything else, or have additional information, photographs or facts that we can use to keep building our history? Contact us at info@canberrabusiness.com. 


[1] National Library of Australia “ACT Employers Federation”; “Annual Report – Confederation of ACT Industry” [online] https://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/639491 (accessed 06 September 2019).

[2] WE Cleary, undated, “Some Memories of the Confederation of ACT Industry” Canberra

[3] Nick Swain (2019) “Was Kingston Canberra’s First Shopping Centre?” Canberra Times, 8th June [online] https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6196962/where-was-canberras-first-shopping-centre/ (accessed 06 September 2019).

[4] ABS (2002) Small Business in Australia 2001, Cat.No.1321.0, Table 4.1, p.33

[5] ABS (2002) Small Business in Australia 2001, Cat.No.1321.0, Table 2.1, p.11

[6] ABS (2012) Counts of Australian Businesses, Including Entries and Exits, June 2007 to June 2011, Cat.No.8165.0, Table 4, p.15)