Last week it was announced that Scott Leach would be stepping down as AHA National President with David Canny of AHA (Vic) elected to the national role. Leach will remain as AHA NSW president, and reflects on his time in the national role below.

After five years as National President of the AHA I have decided to hand the baton on.

I always hoped to leave the office and the national branch of our Association in better shape than I found it. During the last few years, as cities across the nation careened from restrictions to a series of the longest rolling lockdowns in the world, it seemed near impossible.

But as I hand over to AHA Victoria President David Canny I feel as if I have steered our industry through the storm and it is time to go below deck and have a drink.

I was elected to the national presidency on 31 October 2016. I had been AHA NSW President since 2008 but the national role is something much different.

Australia is a vast country and the needs of publicans in Fremantle or Rockhampton are vastly different to my pub in Erskineville. The national role is a strategic one. Planning for the future and finding and solving problems before they arise. But some problems no one saw coming.

I dealt with three different Prime Ministers while national president and three times as many ministers. Alongside National CEO Stephen Ferguson we fought hard advocating for the rights of hotels and staving off the overregulation and nanny state behaviour that continues to affect us in each and every state. But in the end an unknown disease from a provincial Chinese city managed to do what the wowsers and kill joys have been trying to do since European settlement.

Hotels were at the economic front-line of the pandemic. We were among the first businesses to close and last to fully re-open. We lost tens of thousands of staff, many of them like second family to us. We lost our income and we lost our control.  

As a proud self-employed person I have always been the master of my own destiny – prepared to take a risk and literally bet my house on it, striving to achieve the magic which comes from watching a successful business come to life. But this was out of our control. The financial and personal strain on all of us was immense and its effect will linger into the next generation.

I, and other members of the AHA, worked behind the scenes each and every day to get us back up and running. I am proud of what we achieved in the worst of circumstances. I am also proud of the resilience and community spirit shown by hoteliers’ right around Australia during that time.

It has been an honour to serve as National President for the last half a decade. The AHA really is a family and I thank everyone for their assistance and advice during my time as National President.

I would like to especially thank my wife Clare who has given up a lot of family time to allow me to fulfil this role.

There are still battles to fight, but I leave the national office in good hands. Incoming National President, David Canny, a second-generation hotelier, is the perfect person to drive our recovery from the pandemic and work to solve issues such as the chronic worker shortage.

The last few years have been hard for all of us, but tough times make strong people.

I believe our Association has emerged from the dark days stronger. We know our value and so does the community.

I look forward to continuing my role as NSW President and getting below deck for that drink.

Scott Leach in his pub, The Rose of Australia, Erskineville.

Vanessa Cavasinni

Vanessa Cavasinni is the managing editor of Australian Hotelier and Club Management, trade publications for the pub and club sectors respectively. Vanessa has been at the helm of Australian Hotelier since...

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1 Comment

  1. A darn good Job
    And a darn good outcome of
    overseeing us throughout the Pandemic
    Former NSW President
    Former National Senior Vice President

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