Honouring Dr Christopher Peters AM OI JP - Motion of condolence in the ACT Legislative Assembly

Motion of condolence

Ms Gallagher:          I move – That this Assembly expresses its deep regret at the death of Dr CHRISTOPHER PETERS AM OI;  a man whose generosity, commitment and contribution to the Canberra community will be sadly missed, and tenders its profound sympathy to his family, friends and colleagues in their bereavement.

Madam Speaker,

I’m sure I speak for all my colleagues in the Assembly, in offering my profound sympathy to Chris’s wife, Jo, his family and friends and all those that knew and admired the late Dr Chris Peters.

Chris sadly passed away at the young age of 63 in February this year after living with pancreatic cancer since July 2011.

Any of us who knew and met with Chris throughout his illness were taken with his stoicism and forthright approach to living with cancer. At a time when many would reasonably withdraw from public life – Chris Peters didn’t miss a beat – continuing a heavy diary and always prepared for another challenge.

Publicly, Chris is probably best known as the voice of ACT business as Chief Executive of the ACT & Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry. He took up this leadership role in 1997 and held the position until his death.

He had incredible insight and understanding of the nature of business and its often complex relationship with Government in the ACT.

There can be no doubt that Chris’ passionate belief in the ACT’s business potential, and his strong support for the local business community, helped contribute to the economic growth of the ACT over the years.

He was at all times highly respected by both sides of politics. 

He touched the lives of countless Canberrans through his strong and passionate involvement over many years in local business and industry, charity work, and the arts.

Throughout his career he supported a diverse range of community causes, particularly in the areas of vocational education and Indigenous business.

Chris was recognised for his contribution to the ACT when he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2004 for:

“Service to the business sector as an administrator of a range of private, public and professional authorities and organisations, and to the community”

He was named Canberra Citizen of the Year last year and was also a Canberra Honour Walk inductee in the same year.

Chris combined his exemplary leadership qualities with an enormous depth of knowledge of ‘everything business’. 

He was a constant source of information and sage advice to others. It was said that there was hardly a question that you could put to Chris that he didn’t have an answer to.

Chris was a contributor, a giver, and a generator of solutions and ideas.

He did an enormous amount of work to assist young people at risk, and had a significant influence on the career paths of many young Canberrans through his work with the local vocational education and training sector.

He was a driving force in the recovery from the bushfires that hit Canberra just over a decade ago. His leadership helped galvanise the local business community during the rebuilding process in the immediate days after the fires – a mark of a true leader is being able to deliver in the tough times and the 2003 bushfires were certainly that.

He had an amazing work ethic and was a tireless worker, representing local business on over 20 Boards.

Chris’ CV was as long as your arm, and he had a business card to match.

Chris made sure he was always available to those who sought his counsel, whether they were from private enterprise, the public service, Federal or ACT Governments, or the community sector.

He described himself as a workaholic, and once remarked that he came from a family of workaholics.

His father Brian, (who he always spoke proudly of) was a local GP, retired from his medical practice in Adelaide when he was 88, at the time caring for a fourth generation of patients.

His father’s work ethic certainly rubbed off on Chris when he was growing up in Adelaide in the 50s and 60s.

During these formative years he was exposed to people from all walks of life, coming from a working class neighbourhood and attending a well-known private school.

Mixing with people from different cultures and backgrounds gave him the ability to relate to everyone, no matter who they were or where they came from.

A friend of Dr Peters’ once remarked that he was “always a bit different when we were growing up, he liked to be the organiser and leader, and through his life this never changed.”

Chris was a leader in a wide variety of fields.

He was an advocate for justice and crime prevention, having been a member of the the NSW Attorney-General’s Corporate Crime Task Force; the Commonwealth Companies & Securities Legal Advisory Committee; and the ACT Crime Prevention Committee.

He was environmentally conscious before it became fashionable. In the early 70s he was responsible for setting up the South Australian institution called “Scouts Recycling” when he was Assistant Commissioner of that State’s Scout Association.

He brought this ‘green’ interest to Canberra and was a member of the ACT Recycling Group and No Waste Committee for almost a decade. He was also a member of the Earth Hour Steering Committee since its inception, and Deputy Chairman of the ACT Electric Vehicle Council.

Chris was a lover of the fine arts and vocal advocate for the ANU School of Music, having been a School of Music Foundation Board Member for many years. 

Concerned about the possible loss of the School, he once remarked, “I think anyone from outside Canberra probably wouldn’t understand how passionate Canberra feels about its music.”

There was a side to Chris that could be single-minded, forceful, blunt and uncompromising.

He was renowned as a tough but fair negotiator.

But there was another side to him that was characterised by his sensitivity, kindness, sense of humour, compassion, diplomacy and generosity of spirit. 

For those of us who were privileged enough to receive his “my health updates” (always numbered) gave an incredible insight to the generosity of a man, who even in his most private moments, was able to see the good and compliment it and when things could be improved, suggest ways to do that.

He was a philanthropic man whose contribution to numerous local charities over many years was enormous. 

Chris was admired for his altruism and as someone who had difficulty saying no to those seeking his advice and assistance.

He was a founding member and driving force behind GreaterGood, Canberra’s public charitable foundation, that has provided over

$2 million for local causes.  He was also heavily involved in the Salvation Army’s annual Red Shield Appeal.

The outpouring of admiration and genuine affection shown by the community’s response to Chris’ passing is reserved for special people.

Chris was indeed special – a loving husband to Jo, a friend to many, a great Canberran and a man of great character.

Chris once said “What’s fabulous about Canberra is that we are small enough that we can make things happen, but we are large enough to make it worthwhile happening.”

He was a man that did make worthwhile things happen, who will be forever remembered as a champion for business, a truly generous man and a giant of the Canberra community.

A man who made a real difference.

He leaves behind a legacy of achievement that will be difficult to match.

Dr Chris Peters will be very sorely missed.