A navy veteran-turned-Great Barrier Reef tour operator has won the Commonwealth Bank of Australia Business of the Year Award, the final prize at the Beyond Service Awards celebrating entrepreneurs and businesses in the veteran community.

An initiative of the national charity Prince’s Trust Australia, the Beyond Service Awards are sponsored by Commonwealth Bank as part of its support for veteran community-owned businesses.

Held at Admiralty House in Sydney on Tuesday, 4 October, the awards were hosted by Chair of the Enterprise for Veterans’ Advisory Council, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret'd), Governor-General of Australia; and Chair of Prince’s Trust Australia, the Honourable Julie Bishop.

Several representatives of Commonwealth Bank attended the ceremony, including Executive General Manager of Small Business Banking Clare Morgan.

“Veteran-owned businesses play a valuable role in the community and it was wonderful to celebrate the collective achievements and successes of these small businesses at the Awards,” said Ms Morgan.

“Hearing their stories of service, and their journeys transitioning into business ownership and entrepreneurship was truly inspiring. On behalf of all of us at CBA, congratulations to the finalists and the winners.”

Julie Hall — CBA business banker, proud veteran spouse and parent of a currently enlisted Defence Force member, and a judge at the awards — said the ceremony was “a huge celebration in more ways than one”.

“Veterans are humble and highly skilled — They don’t generally do what they do thinking they will be recognised via an award,” she told CBA Newsroom. “To be able to celebrate their achievements in front of his Excellency the Hon. David Hurley and Chair of Prince’s Trust Australia – Hon. Julie Bishop is one of the biggest accolades a veteran-owned business can receive.

Ms Hall added she was “particularly honoured” to be on the judges’ panel.

“I got to know all the finalists together with their exceptional work and background. All high achievers — it was hard to choose our winners,” she said.

Beyond Service Award winners

  • The Power of One Award (recognising the outstanding efforts of an individual who works on their own) — Matt Lewis, Founder of MxM – Made by Matt
  • The New Mission Award (recognising the application of skills, experience and/or networks developed in service to the Australian Defence Force to a civilian business, sponsored by BAE Systems Australia) — David Ballantyne, co-founder of HomeFront Australia
  • The Environmental Warrior Award (recognising veteran and ADF family members championing sustainability through their business) — Stuart Alexander, Co-Founder of Great Barrier Reef Safaris/Mission Beach Charters
  • The Defence Family Business Award (recognising ADF partners and spouses in business, sponsored by PwC Australia) — Bec Waller, Founder of Australian Partners of Defence
  • The Commonwealth Bank of Australia Business of the Year Award (awarded to one of the four category winners) — Stuart Alexander, Co-Founder of Great Barrier Reef Safaris/Mission Beach Charters

“Stuart Alexander has reskilled three times in his life – first as a Navy veteran, then an IT specialist, and now an eco-tourism operator,” said Michelle Endacott, Chief Executive of Prince’s Trust Australia. “His commitment to protect one of the world’s greatest natural assets alongside his partner Dr Adele Pile, is inspiring.”

Visit the Beyond Service Awards site for the full list of finalists.

Matt Lewis and Julie Hall Matt Lewis and Julie Hall

The award trophies were all made by Mr Lewis, winner of the Power of One Award. Before the ceremony, he invited Ms Hall to his Queensland studio to pour the gold resin for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia Business of the Year Award.

“To see the finished product on the day which was produced by Matt Lewis –it brought a tear to my eye,” said Ms Hall.

For more information or to request a call with a dedicated business banker, veterans and their family members can visit: commbank.com.au/veterans

Banner image: Julie Bishop, Commonwealth Bank of Australia Business of the Year Award winner Stuart Alexander, Clare Morgan, and David Hurley