Ian Mackay and his family arrived in Canberra in the middle of winter 2014 to take up the role as CEO of the Canberra Southern Cross Club. As a born and bred Melburnian who then spent almost 20 years living near Bondi Beach in Sydney, the change in climate came as quite a shock.
“I remember we were taking lots of photos of the kids rugged up for school, crisp frosts on the grass and snow on the Brindabella’s to send back to family and friends in Sydney” he said. Since then, Ian and his family have become well trained in the important ‘rules’ of living in Canberra such as not to turn the heaters on before Anzac Day and not to plant the tomatoes before Cup Day!
“Canberra has become home, and our kids are getting the opportunities growing up in a safe, community focused city that they may not have received in Sydney. Kangaroos are regular visitors to our back yard and the faunal emblem of the ACT the Gang Gang cockatoo is also a regular visitor to the neighbourhood with their ‘squeaky gate’ call. We’re much closer to nature than we were in Sydney, and we need to be careful not to take that for granted. The Gang Gang has been listed as endangered and whilst Canberra will keep growing, we can’t just give away the things that make living here so special compared to our large and congested major cities’.
Ian has ridden the lows of the COVID 19 pandemic and its impact on the Southern Cross Club and is grateful to have successfully ‘come out the other side’ with a workforce largely intact and a greater sense of team purpose as one positive legacy of the pandemic. “Closing our Venues multiple times over the past 2 years due to the public health orders was challenging. We had employees we had to care for that were not eligible for Jobkeeper, so we created our own Job Saver program for 40 or so international visa staff who we knew needed our help. When we took the problem and proposed solution to our Board they immediately said yes. It was a good reminder of the community values our Club adheres to.” With no customers to serve these Job Saver staff came into our kitchens to make hot meals for the Vinnies Night Patrol service which meant those most in need in our community could get hot meals from our kitchens free of charge. “We also offered this free meal service to our staff which was a great way to keep in contact with people during the shutdowns”. From this was born the Clubs home delivery service which flourished during the lockdown and is still a successful side business for the Club to this day.
Ian previously worked in highly commercial roles for the likes of Tabcorp, Mobil Oil and The Coca-Cola Company. “These companies provided me with extraordinary experiences and training, but it’s the community centred approach of the Canberra Southern Cross Club which makes this job so appealing.” He also worked in the horse racing industry prior to coming to Canberra and was quick to put his hand up to serve on the Canberra Racing Club board. He was Chairman of the Canberra Racing Club from 2018-2020 but stepped back to being an ordinary member of the Club’s committee in 2020. “I needed to focus first on foremost on my family and my ‘second family’ of the Southern Cross Club employees during the pandemic so I felt it was best to step down as Chairman of the race club. As anyone who has served voluntarily on a Board would know, the executive roles are extremely busy. They are also rewarding and a great way to give back to a sport you love but during the COVID crisis something had to give.”
With the worst of the pandemic, we hope behind us, Ian and his team at the Southern Cross Club are embarking on some exciting projects which will be completed in the next 12 months. ‘’We have a major refurbishment underway at the Southern Cross Yacht Club which will make the area even better still, particularly the new Snapper & Co. hospitality precinct on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.” There’s also major projects to upgrade the Club’s Tuggeranong venue including ensuring the Club’s adjoining community basketball centre, the Southern Cross Stadium, is well maintained. There will also be significant works at the Club’s Jamison and Woden premises as the team works to deliver enhanced outdoor dining areas which have become more popular through the pandemic.
“The challenges are never ending’’ Ian concluded, “but that’s what makes the role so rewarding’’.