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Canberra City Sydney Queensland
Summer in the City
Surprisingly, Peter Cursley is not the high-rolling,
cigar-smoking businessman with gorgeous
women decorating his arm that episodes of
the television show Las Vegas have educated
us to expect.
Rather, Casino Canberra's marketing manager is a
self-confessed "homebody", who spends his spare time
camping and bushwalking with his partner and kids, and
raising money to support sick babies and their families.
With 14 years experience, Mr Cursley can squash any
images you might have of glamorous Vegas-like drama
taking place in the capital's casino.
"We're so tightly regulated that criminal activity isn't a
problem in this casino," Mr Cursley says.
As the only casino in Australia without poker machines,
Mr Cursley said the lack thereof had made "a huge
difference" to tourism clientele, which amounted to about
40 per cent of the casino's business.
"We've got enormous competition with Sydney and
Melbourne and it's difficult to entice players down, but
we're doing okay.
"There's certainly been no return on investment in 15
years, but we've been a smash hit for the ACT economy,"
Mr Cursley says.
Since its establishment, the casino has contributed
about $247 million to the local community.
Among the many charities that Casino Canberra
supports, one is particularly close to Mr Cursley's heart
-- the Newborn Intensive Care Foundation.
"My wife, Susan, and I lost a child in 1993," he says.
"Our eldest daughter, Megan, was only two-and-a-
half years old at the time and the staff at The Canberra
Hospital looked after her so well.
"The then director of the unit would sit down with us in
his office and pass around the tissues -- he'd be wiping his
eyes and we'd be wiping ours. We didn't feel like we were
a number or it was a process, we felt like they were family
that really cared."
Through their experience, the Cursleys were so
impressed with the care and attention they received that
they wanted to give something back to the hospital.
"Only a few months after Hanna died, Suz was
diagnosed with a brain tumour. She was only given a
couple of months to live, but that was stretched out to
18 months due to the various procedures she had along
After Susan passed away in 1995, Mr Cursley forged
ahead with their project, and soon after the foundation
"Since then we have contributed in cash and kind more
than $2 million to the Canberra Hospital through the
"We aim to supply equipment that makes life easier
and more comfortable for the patients, the staff and the
families in the neonatal ward. "One of the first things we
bought were three breast pumps.
"We started off very small, but the latest piece of
equipment we bought was worth $240,000 and that was
to compliment another piece of equipment we bought last
year for $180,000."
Today, almost 15 years down the track, Mr Cursley
enjoys living in "a safe haven like Canberra, where
everything is 10 minutes from everywhere" and he can
ride his bike to work.
However the foundation is no less important to Mr
Cursley now than it was when he established it.
"There's only a certain amount of government funds
to pay for equipment, any other equipment needs
to be funded from elsewhere, so they look to us and
organisations like us to fund it."
It is no wonder Mr Cursley is happy to continue
volunteering his time as chairman of the foundation when
he regularly hears of success stories from grateful parents.
"The other day a lady from Sydney rang me out of the
blue. She said she didn't believe her baby would be alive if
it hadn't been for the foundation."
And then, of course, there's the memory of Hanna.
"I still keep a photo of Hanna in my top drawer at work. I
don't know why I still keep it there, but I see it every time I
open the drawer."
Through personal tragedy, Peter Cursley
found a way to help others. BY NAOMI FALLON
Chipping in for
no return on
15 years, but
a smash hit
for the ACT
Photographer: Holly Treadaway
Peter Cursley outside the Casino
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