Chambers of Commerce

Chambers of Commerce played an active part in the business life of Tasmania. They were organisations of businessmen seeking 'to promote the commercial, industrial, and civic interests' of the community by co-operating with different levels of government. The first Chamber of Commerce in Australia was formed at Launceston in 1849, reflecting the strong business community there, and Hobart Town followed in 1851. Chambers were formed in other centres but did not always last long. Devonport and Latrobe formed chambers before 1900, and reformed them again after 1900 as did Burnie, Ulverstone, George Town, New Norfolk and Rosebery, and there were also the North-Eastern and the St Helens and District Chambers of Commerce.

Chambers of Commerce paid close attention to opening up country districts, port development, marketing, transport, industrial relations, immigration, and relations between farmers and businessmen, and defended Tasmania's interests when threatened by federal shipping policies. The Hobart Chamber was prominent in the secession movement of the late 1920s. The Chambers took up causes of 'practical interest to the business welfare of the community' and acted as independent advocates of 'the public interest' for measures leading to 'the material and cultural advancement of the whole community'. Junior Chambers of Commerce, established from the 1940s in major centres, developed the potential of members and helped the community in various ways.

The Federation of Tasmanian Chambers of Commerce was formed in about 1970. Significant related bodies include the Tasmanian Chamber of Manufactures (18991973), the Tasmanian Automobile Chamber of Commerce formed around 1928, and the Tasmanian Chamber (from 1987 Confederation) of Industries, formed in 1973. In 1993 a merger resulted in the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which strengthened the voice of employers in political and economic issues.

Further reading: The Tasmanian Cyclopedia, Hobart, 1931; Walch's Tasmanian almanac 18801987/9.

Stefan Petrow