"We recently proudly celebrated our 40th Anniversary.
This is a major achievement for AustCham, which has gone from strength to strength over that period, and deserves reflection on its origin, aims and achievements.
AustCham originated in a small informal group of individuals (including myself) calling themselves the Australian Businessmen’s Luncheon Group in the early 70’s. It was constituted as a group to socialize and exchange information and experience, to liaise with the Embassy, Austrade and visiting Australian politicians, civil servants and other notables. An important element was to provide a group who could offer practical assistance and advice to fellow Australians looking at investing in Thailand or entering into trade and commerce or provision of services relating to Thailand.
Thai Glass (ACI) and Thai Industrial Gases (BOC Australia) were the only majors in Thailand out of Australia at that time and they were key supporters, later joined by South Australian Fisherman’s Co-operative (SAFCOL). Most of the others were individual Australians heading up or working for non-Australian employers.
After a few years, a sufficient core of dedicated members had developed and were ready to take on the serious commitments of a registered Chamber of Commerce. They proceeded to register the Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce on 21st of March, 1977.
The membership was small and the funds low. The office was where the President happened to work and his office staff did the Chamber work. No computers, no faxes (only telexes), no mobile phones, and an awful land line system with long hours of queuing for an international phone call, and a patchy supply of electricity.
Well, 22 Presidents and 12 Executive Directors later, we proudly stand amongst the leading independent foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand and with a membership of 350+ and actively engaged in representing the best interests of our members. This has involved continuous close collaboration with other Chambers of Commerce on key common issues, and with the Thai Chamber of Commerce, via our seat on the Thailand Board of Trade.
The growth has all been built on the high levels of commitment, generosity and support (in both time and funds) which our various Presidents, Committees, sub-committees, staff, sponsors, volunteers and members numbering hundreds of people over the last 40 years have brought to bear, as well as the close collaboration and support given by the Australian Embassy and Austrade leadership and staff.
The self-less contribution of all these people, and the overall unity which has existed over this period in collective advancement of mutual Thai – Australian interests has been critical, and needs to be continued and further nurtured.
The Thai-Australian relationships and linkages on all fronts have grown and improved significantly over the last 40 years in so many ways. On the trade and commerce front, there has been major growth, a good part of it on the back of the Thai-Australia Free Trade Agreement ( TAFTA) ; on the investment front there has been an increased recognition and engagement by Thai multinationals in the investment and resource opportunities in Australia; and on the educational front there has been a major growth in Thai student flows to Australia, with some increasing reciprocity under the New Colombo Plan.
AustCham has over the last 40 years played an active role in providing input and support to all these advances. Through various initiatives it has sought to increase the engagement of the Thai and Australian business and alumni community in the networking, exchange of information and other person to person activities which increase Australian and Thai understanding, cooperation and advancement.
It is appropriate on this 40th Anniversary to express our collective recognition and thanks to all of these people for their contributions, and to encourage their continued good efforts in the coming years."