01 February 2016

Gus Petersilka, Canberran of Year 1978

“Do it now.  Tomorrow there may be a law against it” was Gus Petersilka's personal motto.  

Born in Austria,  where his father ran a large entertainment restaurant, Gus migrated to Australia in 1951.

Gus opened his first late night cafe in Thetis Court, Manuka in the mid 1960s and operated a dance restaurant in the Canberra Theatre Centre, before opening his most famous venue, Gus’ Cafe in Bunda Street, Civic, in 1970.

Gus' was the first venue to offer alfresco service in Canberra; to the horror and opposition of the Department of the Interior and the delight of the public

Battles with bureacracy and late night raids to remove fixtures ensued, but in late 1974, Gus received permission to erect a canopy over the footpath and Canberra's cafe society began.

Energetic and socially engaged, Gus stood for public office twice and was active in the small business and Austrian community in Canberra.

Further biographical detail about Gus Petersilka is available on our website, as is a history of the Canberra Citizen of the Year Award and a full list of awardees.
The 40th consecutive Canberra Citizen of the Year will be announced by the Chief Minister during Canberra Day Celebrations in March 2016.

Image source: ACT Heritage Library image 00261, Canberra Times Collection