George Catsi Named Inner West Citizen Of Year

Inner West Council

Inner West Council has named Petersham Bowling Club President, George Catsi as the 2024 Inner West Citizen of the Year.

This award is in recognition of the leadership Mr Catsi has shown in transforming the Petersham Bowlo away from reliance on poker machine revenue as well as the positive example the Club has set for other community clubs across the Inner West.

George has been an Inner West local since 2001. He took over as President of Petersham Bowlo in 2006, saving a failing club that had been slated for redevelopment.

He wasn’t a bowler but led a team that reimagined what a club could be by removing poker machines and creating a thriving arts, music, and community hub, increasing turnover by over 850 per cent across 17 years.

As well as being a champion for pokie-free hospitality venues, George is a national AWGIE award-winning performance writer, performer and producer. As a senior lecturer, at UTS, he has taught Design Thinking, Creative Intelligence and Innovation, Animation, and Communications, facilitating creative, innovative and entrepreneurial outcomes.

Inner West Mayor, Darcy Byrne said; “George Catsi has shown the way on how clubs and pubs can not just survive but prosper when they stop their reliance on poker machines, and expand their artistic and community engagement programs,” Byrne said

“With thought and creativity, George has helped transformed the Petersham Bowlo’ and created a template for other community clubs to follow. We want to encourage the same sort of transformation throughout the Inner West.

“He’s a very worthy recipient of our Citizen of the Year Award.”

Deputy Mayor Chloe Smith said, “Under George’s leadership, the Petersham Bowlo has been transformed from a tired, run-down old club to the beating heart of our community.

“Today the club is a local hub loved by the young, old, and furry residents of Petersham and beyond. Hosting arts and cultural events, live music, community meetings, craft beer festivals, trivia nights, play dates, picnics, medieval re-enactments, a tool shed, and even the occasional game of bowls – there’s truly something for everyone.

“George and the board’s vision to ditch poker machines in favour of a business model that centres on community wellbeing and connection has been a roaring success. Their model has paved the way for other clubs looking to do the same.

“Long live the PBC!”

George Catsi said, “I was thrilled to be nominated but completely taken aback to win the Citizen of the Year award.”When you volunteer for something you feel passionate about, these accolades are not what you do it for. However, when they come, they are such an honour.

“It is a team effort by a range of dedicated individuals across two decades. To us, the Petersham Bowling Club will always just be the bowlo.

“The opportunity of what the club could be was, and still is, our primary driver. Your underlying philosophy is for the vision to be community-led and culturally driven.

“From the beginning, the board had an issue with poker machines as a form of revenue for the club. They are exploitative, and we removed them in 2006. We built a model based on engagement, not exploitation, and this, we have come to find out, is something quite extraordinary and rare with NSW clubs.

“So we have become champions of pokie-free clubs offering advice and support when we can. This is something the club is very proud of.

“Thank you, Inner West Council, for this great honour bestowed on me, and all who have contributed to the club’s success.”

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