Building Business Bridges

The Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce

When John S. Larke landed on the shores of Australia in 1895, the land was still six years away from becoming a federation, when six independent British colonies would band together to become states of a new nation. Although the first fleet of settlers had arrived just over a century prior, in 1788, Australia soon became known for its natural beauty and many resources.

For Larke, it was not his first long distance voyage. Born near Stratton in Cornwall, England, in 1840, he came to Canada as a very young child. Beginning life as a school teacher, he later pursued journalism and, in 1879, changed vocations and entered manufacturing, soon becoming the President and General Manager of the Oshawa Storie Factory. In time, Larke entered politics and, in 1894, he was selected by the Hon Mackenzie Bowell, the Minister of Trade and Commerce – and later, Canada’s fifth Prime Minister – to represent the Dominion in Australia as Trade Commissioner.

Hours after disembarking from the R.M.S. Warrimoo along with his wife, three sons and his daughter, Larke told the Sydney Morning Herald that his voyage, although long, had been a pleasant one. “He intended to make his home in Australia, and was here for the sole purpose of furnishing merchants with information in regard to the possibilities of trade between these colonies and Canada,” stated the newspaper in its 9 January, 1895 edition. “Several leading Canadian merchants proposed visiting these colonies for the purpose of satisfying themselves with regard to the prospects of trade.”

Some of the desired products at the time included Australian wool – growing in popularity, and known for its superior quality – along with mutton, sugar, animal skins (opossum in particular), tallow, and more. Larke told the press his “sole object in coming to these colonies was to afford commercial men all the information he possibly could,” as he believed the possibility of the markets of items being transported to and from Australia and Canada via steamers was excellent, with “great possibilities for trade” in the future. It was then that Larke, Canada’s first Trade Commissioner in Sydney, set the process in motion for what would become a thriving connection to promote and pursue the development of business between the two nations, a bond which continues to link the two nations well over a century after it was first formed.

Bringing Interests Together

Established on 20 October, 2005, the Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce (CACC) is a not-for-profit business focused organization dedicated to nurturing and bringing Canada and Australia closer together. With the aim of building business connections and enabling trade between the two nations, the CACC is a membership organization with five different levels, including corporate sponsor, corporate member, small business member, individual gold member, and chamber support. Funded through sponsorships and memberships, the CACC has a Board and two dedicated employees, and has grown in excess of 1,500 members in both countries – of which more than two-thirds are corporate.

“We are not a social club, and we concentrate all our efforts into the business market,” says Jeannie Foster. As President of the CACC, Ms. Foster has held the voluntary position for almost seven years. Until recently Ms. Foster, an industry veteran, spent years as General Manager at Air Canada Australia and New Zealand and predecessor Canadian Airlines. She says that working for Air Canada and being involved with the CACC was a natural fit. “The goal is to increase business between both Canada and Australia – Air Canada facilitates this business by default as an airline. There were natural synergies between the two organizations. Our clients and members were predominantly the same people, so it was an easy transition from one to the other.”

The Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce proudly offers a range of membership opportunities to both corporate and individual members. Corporate Sponsors can benefit in a number of ways, particularly those larger corporations which already operate in both Canada and Australia, along with those companies endeavouring to broaden trade relations between the two countries.

With a growing network of parties – including individuals and organizations alike – interested in nurturing business relationships between the two nations, the CACC maintains relationships with senior and operational level resources of Government in both Canada and Australia, and prides itself on providing access to an extensive, growing network of like-minded persons wishing to see even stronger trade and business connections between the two.

The Benefits of Membership

Supported by its five levels of membership, the Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce also receives support from its respected corporate sponsors, which are Air Canada, Bombardier, CAE, CGI, Grant Thornton, KPMG, O’Neill Partners, RBC Capital Markets, Stikeman Elliott, and Thomsons Lawyers.

For almost a decade, the CACC has maintained a number of objectives in the furtherance of positive links between the two nations. These are: the promotion, development and expansion of bilateral trade and commerce between Canada and Australia; the promotion and support of investment between Canada and Australia; the representation of Canadian interests in Australia and Australian interests in Canada; and to maintain and foster a special relationship with Canadian and Australian Government agencies in matters relating to trade, industry and commerce between the two countries.

Among the many ways the CACC promotes the organization and its interests to members is through events, ranging from receptions to lunch discussions to business networking, panel discussions, film festivals, leadership forums, oil and gas trade missions, import-export shows, informative dinners, and a range of unique meetings. Speakers and topics chosen for members are wide-ranging and always interesting; this year alone has seen the CACC welcome a number of guest speakers, including the Deputy Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Dr Michael Schaper. Topics have addressed a number of areas, from legal and technological issues in the mining industry to the Canada Pension Plan, investing in Australia, real estate, social finance and innovation, leadership, Canada’s oil sands, health, customer engagement, social media, mergers and acquisitions, public-private partnerships, and much more. Guest speakers have included Calin Rovinescu, the CEO and President of Air Canada, Jacques Demers, CEO and President of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), the Honourable Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband, and many others who have brought a wealth of information and shared their insights on a range of topics.

“We host business-to-business meetings, events, and host prominent speaker events, whether they be government or private sector,” comments Ms. Foster. “We also have trade delegations, high profile visitors from Canada, and focus groups and forums and strong connections with target markets such as finance, mining, IT and so forth. Canada and Australia are very similar in many ways but especially so in their key target markets. We also have a very close relationship with government and private sector, and recognize opportunities that arise and could be of interest.”

Specifically, the CACC works closely with the Canadian High Commission and Consulate offices in Australia, as well as various consulting government groups. In Canada, the organization is active with the Australian High Commission, Trade Commissioners in both countries, and Federal Government bodies within both countries. “We don’t promote ourselves as doing the job that Austrade does or the Consulate, but just as a conduit to both,” explains Ms. Foster.

For Corporate Members, the CACC is suitable for medium and large companies interested in the organsation’s networking events, and who want to meet others in the Canadian-Australian business community and expand their contacts. Small Business Members – those holding private companies with fewer than 10 employees and/or sales of under $1 million annually will also benefit from CACC and its wide range of networking opportunities. For persons who wish to make contact and develop business and social networks with the Canadian-Australian business community, there is the Individual Gold Member status, offered to young professionals, students under 35 years of age, and seniors/retirees over 65. Individuals who wish to stay in touch with CACC by receiving its newsletters and advice of CACC events open to the paying public are eligible to express their interest by becoming a Chamber Supporter.

As the organization reaches its 10 year anniversary, Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce President Foster says she would like to see the CACC continue in the same vein, assisting growth between the two countries through collaboration and consultation with key stakeholders, and build on the firm foundation between the two as founded by Trade Commissioner John S. Larke almost 120 years ago.

“The relationship between the two countries is very positive already, and the recent Economic Leadership Forum that was held in Melbourne this year bore proof of this,” says Ms. Foster. “There was a very high contingent of high profile attendees and speakers from both countries. This forum continues to grow as the leaders continue to share and consult and through these discussions improve government, and cultural relationships from all sectors.”

A friendship which is solid and long-lasting, the bond between Australia and Canada will continue to endure long into the future. “I think it goes without saying that any increased trade for both countries is beneficial. Both countries have strong and important alliances with their neighbouring countries. The USA is a huge trading partner for Canada, and Asia is for Australia. We like to consider that we are a stepping stone in terms of assistance for Canadian investors entering into the China market and the Canadians have a strong presence in South America and we are able to learn from one another’s expertise in these markets.”

For more information about The Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce, please visit

September 23, 2020, 5:32 AM EDT