Canberra Services Club

Speech in the Legislative Assembly

6 May 2009

On Thursday 16 April 2009 I had the great pleasure of attending the dedication of The Lady Gowrie Hall at the Canberra Services Club, Manuka.

Following the outbreak of World War II, an association was formed in Canberra to support service personnel.  What was to become known as the Canberra Services Welfare Association proposed that a “rest hut” be constructed for the use of people in the forces.

Lady Zara Gowrie, the wife of Australia’s tenth and longest serving Governor-General, Lord Gowrie, played an active role in raising funds for the construction of the hut.

She hosted a Garden Fair at Government House in which some ₤3,500 was raised.  This Garden Fair included a raffle to which she generously donated some of her personal belongings.

In the end ₤7,000 was raised and on 13 March 1941 the Lady Gowrie Services Club opened.

The club provided a place for rest and relaxation, served meals and was the venue for many social occasions.  The club’s invitation was eventually extended to anyone in uniform including United States personnel and those from other Commonwealth countries.

Lady Gowrie knew something of the sacrifice those in the military give in service to their country.  Her husband Lord Gowrie joined the British Army in 1898 and had a long and distinguished army career.  He served in the Sudan Campaign and in India. During World War I he served in France and Gallipoli, and later in Germany where he commanded forces.  Amongst his decorations are the Victoria Cross (for bravery in saving the life of an Egyptian Officer), the Distinguished Service Order and Bar, and numerous Mention in Despatches. 

Lady Gowrie was president of the club until 1944, just before the end of Lord Gowrie’s commission and their return to the United Kingdom. 

The modern day Canberra Services Club still provides services to ‘those that serve and have served’ including the serving community, veterans’ community, and emergency services personnel.

The refurbishments of the club and dedication of the Lady Gowrie Hall, recognise, in the words of club president Vince Pannell APM: “without doubt a person of great character, integrity, compassion and drive and her extensive contributions to the Australian community.”

The club is a little something that we in the community can support and give in return to those in the services who have given and continue to give so much.

Some in the community who have supported the improvements include:

• AFP Association
• ACT Chamber of Commerce and Industry
• Australian Industry Defence Network
• Aristocrat
• Australian War Memorial
• BA Plumbing
• Bradley Allen Lawyers
• Buxton Painting Services
• The Canberra Times
• Canberra Sand & Gravel
• 2CC/2CA Radio
• Chemworks
• Clubs ACT
• Coca-Cola
• Commonwealth Bank
• David Turner Electrician
• Eric Martin and Associates
• Finance Solutions 24/7
• Fini Frames
• Fosters Group Ltd
• Lieutenant General Peter Leahy
• Macquarie Editions
• Montaignes Removals
• Mr Noel Ryan
• Mr Steve Dickinson
• Mr Terry Emery
• National Library of Australia
• Paragon Printing
• PhotoAccess
• Plume Graphic Design
• Service for Art
• T. OK Carpentry & Partitioning Pty Ltd
• United Firefighters Union
• Workin’ Gear
• Yarralumla Nursery

Congratulations to Vince Pannell APM and the Board of Directors for steering the Canberra Services Club, congratulations on the dedication of Lady Gowrie Hall, and I look forward to a bright future for the club.