Canberra public servants go to war (on the squash court)

There might be one, unified, Australian Public Service but on the squash courts of Tuggeranong this weekend, Canberra's bureaucrats go to war.

As dozens of public servants from around the capital take to the courts for the inaugural Public Service Squash Challenge at Erindale on Saturday and Sunday, the APS Code of Conduct will be put to one side as departments take up racquets to defend their honour.

Event Organiser Marshall Clark, left, and public servant Helen Parkes prepare for the Inaugural Public Service Squash ...
Event Organiser Marshall Clark, left, and public servant Helen Parkes prepare for the Inaugural Public Service Squash Challenge. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Organiser Marshall Clark says the professional niceties will not apply, with squashies – that's what they're called – priding themselves on a hard-but-fair approach to what is more an obsession than a sport for many of them. 

  "I think everyone is going to be tough because they want to represent their departments," Mr Marshall said.

"As squashies, we have a code, we have an etiquette when we play that we would never try to injure or endanger an opponent but, within that basic etiquette, people like to play tough.

"You play hard, you play fair and then afterwards the winner buys the opponent a drink, a soft drink or a beer."


Unbeknown to most of us, squash has been undergoing a quiet renaissance around Canberra and Mr Marshall believes we might be on the way to a return to the sport's 1980 hey-day, sweatbands and all.

"In Canberra, squash is experiencing a real resurgence, all the courts are chock-a-block with social players … we're almost at capacity and it can be difficult to get a half or an hour on a court of an evening," Mr Marshall said.

"I think it might be lot of the people who learnt squash as teenagers in the 1980s, now they're looking for a sport to keep fit."

"Squashies are particularly addicted to their sport."

Doing battle this weekend, there will be players from the departments of Human Services, Social Services, Defence, Attorney General, AEC, Environment, Health and the AIHW as well as the odd ACT bureaucrat.

Mr Clark, who works at the ANU, says a spruce-up of the courts at Erindale Sports Complex left him and and his clubmates looking around for an excuse for a tournament.

"The courts are looking brand spanking new and we wanted to christen the courts, if you like, with a tournament that celebrated something about Canberra," he said.

"One thing we all have in common here in Canberra is that if we're not a public servant, we're married to a public servant, we have friends who are public servants or we're dealing with public servants regularly.

"But we've never had a public service tournament in squash."

Mr Marshall said it is too late for players to sign on for this year's event,but anyone wanting to cheer on their department or agency should get along to Erindale Sports Complex in Wanniassa on Saturday or Sunday to catch the action.