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8 July, 2021

A new Broome for Graffen

ALTHOUGH new Cassowary Coast Regional Council CEO has spent his entire working career on the regional west coast of Australia, his connections with the Far North and Cassowary Coast cannot be understated.

By Peter McCullagh

Andrew Graffen’s connection with our region commenced whilst studying at James Cook University in the early 2000s.

His chosen course was a Batchelor of Science in Aquaculture. Weekends were spent discovering the abundant freshwater swimming holes, camping spots and fishing the reef, beaches and freshwater creeks from Townsville to Cooktown.

Seeing the north close-up and at its beautiful best, indelibly stamped the Cassowary Coast a natural paradise with boundless potential for business and families.

After graduating from James Cook, Graffen headed due west, across Australia to work in the pearling industry in Broome. Regional living suited the new graduate. “I love the northern lifestyle, the isolation really does not faze me, it’s more about people, great connections and friendships and the environment,” he said.

Working within the pearling industry initially for Broome Pearls and then serving as General Manager with Willie Creek Pearls, Graffen formed a strong understand of the importance of business within regional centres.

This understanding of the importance of business and the need for regional economic and infrastructure development led Graffen to local government in Broome.

Initially serving as Manager of Infrastructure at Broome Shire Council before being appointed as Director of Infrastructure Services at Broome Council, a position he has held for the past three and a half years.

Whilst serving with council Graffen was an active member of the community in Broome. Working as a volunteer with St John Ambulance as well as coaching his son’s soccer team, community commitment comes with the territory.

“Working in a voluntary capacity, you get an understanding more of the community and their needs and motivations, in particular when there’s no pay-packet involved.”

During his tenue at Broome Shire Council, Graffen oversaw the revitalisation of the Chinatown Precinct. This $28 million project transformed the retail and cultural hub of Broome and celebrated the rich and diverse modern cultural history of the town.

“This project was about bringing to life to a long-held aspiration of the community and preserving the town’s rich history.

Transforming a town is no easy feat. Community engagement is essential, Graffen knows that nothing can be done unless the Council works with community and local groups.

“Like we did in Broome, I feel it is essential to partner with the local community, the traditional owners and business community. If we work together we can transform the region and create a thriving and very resilient community.”

The opportunity to move back east and take the reigns as Cassowary Coast CEO seemed to be the next logical step for Graffen. Whilst serving as Director of Infrastructure with Broome Shire he had backfilled the CEO role as well as managed the two largest transformation projects for the region.

“I see the Cassowary Coast as a region with unlimited opportunities and potential. Diverse in culture, business as well as abundant natural environment, with real opportunities for development, as well as the perfect place to bring up a young family.”

“Doing Council business in the Cassowary Coast will be similar to how we have done it in Broome. Connection and consultation will be a focus.

“Consultation is the key in my eyes, it’s important to understand the feelings of the community as well as what they see as priorities and how they see their future.”

Although Graffen has spent 17 years embedded deep in AFL heartland, his passion still runs deep for his sport of choice, rugby league.

Unfortunately, he is a Blues supporter, and quietly confident of a three nil ‘blue-wash’ this year, but one of his priorities when he arrives will be to find a touch football team and competition to burn off some excess energy.

Like Mayor, Mark Nolan, Graffen is a passionate Parramatta supporter, so the pressure will be on in a region that has produced some fine Cowboy, Storm and Broncos’ players for Graffen to remain loyal to his Eels and not support a Queensland aligned team.

Football, friends, fishing and family are all important in Andrew Graffen’s life. Coming into the Cassowary Coast to take the lead role with Council will test this new CEO, however his experience in working with diverse interest groups, community and higher tiers of government in the west will help to bind council closer to the community.

“I’m coming in from outside, no political alignment and truly independent.”

Andrew Graffen intends to take up his position as Cassowary Coast CEO after the outgoing CEO, James Gott leaves on September 3.

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