29 Aug 2023

Senate Comm Games Inquiry – An Event Industry Perspective

Event Industry veteran Simon Thewlis appeared today before the Senate Inquiry into Australia’s preparedness to host Commonwealth, Olympic and Paralympic Games to give an Event Industry perspective of the Commonwealth Games debacle.

These are some direct quotes from his testimony today:

“The reason why we are all here today is because the Victorian government didn’t value, respect or properly utilise the unique skills, experience and capabilities that Victoria’s event industry has. The very things that built Victoria’s reputation as a place that consistently delivers world class events.”


“Our industry plays a huge role in events like the Games.  Many of the people involved in managing the whole event are from our industry.  We do the ceremonies, live sites, sports presentations, corporate hospitality and activations, and related business events and community events.”  

“Our people and suppliers also do all the production, a lot of the temporary site infrastructure as well as supporting infrastructure for media.  They also provide a wide range of specialist services such as site management, risk management, security, cleaning, first aid, etc….” 

“It was astonishing that the Chiefs responsible for critical areas such as Strategy, Planning, Delivery Coordination, Games Services, Culture, Ceremonies and Governance – as well as the CEO – all, to our knowledge, had little to no real operational experience on major events.”


“In contrast, the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games had a CEO who had a vast amount of major event experience.  He brought in many key people who’d successfully delivered the Sydney Olympics.  It was a very strong team so not a surprise that Melbourne 2006 was viewed as the best Commonwealth Games up to that point.  They also ran to budget.”

“There is a lot more to successfully organising events than people outside of our industry realise.  Time and time again, we’ve seen people with little real event experience try to do what we do with disastrous results.”

“With events, if you don’t get the foundations right, it is very unlikely that your event will succeed.”

“The surprise of event industry suppliers that costs were the deal breaker – as none of them had even been asked for even budget costs.”

“And similarly, that the organisers hadn’t engaged with the event industry to find much more economical ways to do things, even though this is what our industry excels at – especially with temporary infrastructure.”

“For half of the pandemic DJPR tried to argue that the event industry wasn’t even an industry.  Then, they thought that they could do themselves what our industry actually does – ending in a shambles.”

Just walking away from an event goes against everything event people and the event industry stands for.  We find lateral ways to solve problems and we do whatever it takes to deliver our events.

A lot of us in the event industry are horrified that our state has gone from being renown around the world for delivering successful major events to being one of the only places in the world to have ever walked away from a Games.  To not even be able to get a viable plan together.

The Event Industry has long called for the Victoria government to have a dedicated Events Victoria unit.  A unit with people who have real Event Industry experience to support and develop Victoria’s Event Industry.

The Commonwealth Games episode shows that a dedicated Events Victoria is urgently needed to help restore Victoria’s reputation as a leading event state and to ensure that a debacle like this can never happen again.


Simon Thewlis, Director, Event Pty Ltd

Simon has very proudly worked in Victoria’s Event Industry for over forty years – having organised a vast range of events as well as having consulted to government and major event companies and promoters.  He was one of the key people involved in the Save Victorian Events campaign that ran during the pandemic – involving over 2,000 people from more than 900 businesses from right across Victoria’s Event Industry.

Victoria’s Event Industry

Victoria’s Event Industry is the people and businesses involved in the creation and management of special events in and from Victoria.  These include business events, public and community events, ag shows, mass participation events, festivals, concerts, professional weddings, major events, and more.

Prior to Covid there were over 120,000 events a year in Victoria with a spend of over $15 billion.


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