Family business a part of Canberra’s landscape
By ALLISON REDMAN (Canberra Weekly Magazine 19 April, 2012)
Since 1954 there has been a dramatic change in trucks and earthmoving equipment but despite the changes, Corkhill Bros has continued to service the Canberra community. The family business was founded by brothers Brian and Patrick Corkhill, who ‘started in a small way in 1954’.
‘We only had one vehicle and that sort of thing but we knew the farm was going to finish,’ Brian said. That farm was their grandparents’ dairy farm, which operated until works commenced on Lake Burley Griffin. Brian said that due to the lake’s construction, they had to look to do something else and after watching ‘private contractors get sand and gravel off our farm ... it gave us the idea of doing something ourselves’.
Today, Corkhill Bros have sand and gravel quarries towards Bungendore and Cooma, but the biggest part of the business is landscaping and the recycling plant besides Mugga Lane tip.
‘It’s been good. We’ve weathered good times and bad times. Canberra is a great place to live and bring up children – probably the best place in Australia,’ Brian said.
Corkhill Bros provide landscaping materials for the home wholesale to the public but according to Brian the main part of the business is the green waste recycling.
‘We get about roughly 70 per cent of the green waste from Canberra to recycle,’ he said. ‘We approached the government probably 20 or 25 years ago to do it. It was in its infancy then; when you started doing it (green waste recycling) you could grind it up but you couldn’t sell it.
‘The end product is now a saleable product whereas before we had excess piles of mulch that we couldn’t do anything with.’
While Canberra is a fluctuating place to do business, Brian said there have been many changes over the years especially with technology.
‘The stuff we started with you would call them antiques compared to what it is today,’ he said. ‘What used to take a man and a machine 10 or 12 hours you can now do in three hours.’
Corkhill Bros is a contender as one of the 10 oldest family businesses in the Canberra region. The search is being conducted by Family Business Australia in the lead up to Canberra’s Centenary celebrations.
The 10 oldest family businesses will be announced at the 2012 Family Business Australia Race Day on 25 May, a celebratory event recognising the role family businesses have played in shaping the economic, social and cultural fabric of Canberra.