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Australia bestows top honour on champion of Australian exporters

A Singaporean Austrade employee received one of the highest Australian honours conferred on a non-citizen at a special ceremony last week at Government House.

Mrs Toh Guek Hong, Austrade’s Senior Business Development Manager in Singapore, received the Order of Australia Honorary Award from the Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC (Retd), for her “exceptional contribution” to helping Australian food and beverage exporters succeed in Singapore over the past 20 years.

The award was announced in the 2006 Queen's Birthday Honours list earlier this year.

Austrade’s Singapore-based Regional Director for South East Asia, South Asia and the Pacific, David Twine, said Mrs Toh has been the driving force behind taking the best Australian food and beverage products to Singaporean consumers since the mid 1980s.

“Australian food and beverage products make up nearly one fifth of merchandise exports to Singapore. We could not have achieved this kind of success without Mrs Toh’s extraordinary effort,” Mr Twine said. “She has been a tireless champion of Australian exporters in Singapore and helped make Singapore Australia’s largest trade and investment partner in South East Asia,” he said.

Mrs Toh established the now-ubiquitous Australian food and beverage promotion displays in Singaporean supermarkets and raised the profile of Australian wines to the level where Singapore is now Australia’s largest wine market in Southeast Asia, with exports worth over $41 million in 2005–06.

“It is an honour to be acknowledged by the Australian Government. Opening doors for Australian exporters in my home market and connecting Australian and Singaporean businesses is something I’m passionate about. It is great being able to make a mark for the Australian export industry in Singapore,” Mrs Toh said.

According to Marketing Manager of Sydney Sprouts, Mooki, Mrs Toh was pivotal to the company’s success in Singapore. “She’s such an inspiring person, full of energy and passion. She taught us how to become export savvy in a very competitive environment,” Ms Mooki said.

“We were a very small exporter when we first started, but now we’re number one in sprouts in the Singapore market. What we learned from her we’ve applied to other markets,” she said.

The Order of Australia Honorary Award is the premier Australian accolade given to non-Australians. This recognition means that as an Honorary Member in the Order of Australia, Mrs Toh Guek Hong, a Singaporean citizen, can use the initials ‘AM’ after her name.

She is the second Singaporean to be conferred this high-level honour by the Australian Government. Singapore’s former Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, received the highest honour in the Order of Australia — the Honorary Companionship — from Prime Minister John Howard in 2005.

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