Canberra’s oldest surviving businesses – found!

Cusack’s Department Store, corner Franklin Street, Manuka 1929

8 November 2019

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Canberra’s oldest surviving businesses – found!


Canberra Business Chamber has found the oldest businesses in our town.

“We put a call out to Canberrans to help us identify the longest-lasting, oldest firms in town,” Chamber CEO Dr Michael Schaper said today. “We were inundated with a whole range of businesses, over many decades. And there are some remarkable stories as well.”

The Business Chamber itself is celebrating its 87th birthday, having been formed by a group of prominent local businesses-men early in 1932.

The oldest survivors were revealed last night at the Chamber’s annual dinner.

These are:

  • Cusacks, who started in 1918 in Yass and subsequently became one of the first shops to trade in the Manuka precinct when it opened in 1925;
  • The Canberra Burns Club, formed in 1924;
  • The Canberra Times newspaper, which published its first edition in 1926;
  • Redpath and Frawleys shoe shops (1922 and 1927 respectively);
  • YWCA, which commenced in 1929; and
  • Radio 2CA, which is now part of the Capital Radio group. It’s been broadcasting since 1931.

“All of these businesses are at least 85 years young, and still going strong,” Dr Schaper said. “These are great stories of success and achievement, especially when you consider that the average life of a business in Australia is less than ten years.

“Most all of these are also members of the Canberra Business Chamber, reflecting the long history of mutual support that exists between the Chamber and established businesses in town.”

Another large group of businesses from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s were also profiled at the dinner.

“Today, Canberra is a private sector town – almost two-thirds of local residents now work outside of government. Whilst that’s a relatively new trend, the private sector has always been important to the ACT,” Dr Schaper said.