1960s - The clever country

In 1963, the Export Development Council wanted to recognise Australian businesses that were having outstanding export success. And so, the Australian Export Awards was born.

Recognising export success

The inaugural Australian Export Awards ceremony was held in Canberra on 27 November 1963. Since that first ceremony, the awards have recognised 1,990 Australian businesses.

By the mid 1960s, Australia’s economy was going from strength to strength.

With the credit squeezes of the early 1960s behind us, reduced interest rates and relaxed restrictions saw a major rise in imports. The decade also saw the start of Australia’s mining boom.

During this time, Australia’s economic success became closely tied to a healthy trade position. For most businesses, increased exports were not driven by a desire to internationalise. Rather, they had surplus stock to sell.

The Department of Trade was looking to diversify Australia’s trade markets. Developing new and existing export markets was placed on equal footing with tariff protection and import licensing.

The Department saw export potential in South America and the Middle East. It dispatched trade missions to both regions early in the decade.

Towards the end of the 1960s, Japan had replaced the UK as Australia’s largest trading partner. The value of Australia’s exports to Japan almost quadrupled.

The US also rose to become an important trading partner, second only to Japan. Exports to the US more than tripled during the decade.

Other major 1960s milestones included the discovery of oil and gas in Bass Strait and iron ore at Mount Tom Price, Western Australia. Sir John Eccles’ Nobel Prize for Medicine helped establish Australia's international credentials as the ‘clever country’.

1963 winner: Henselite’s passion for sporting precision

The inaugural Australian Export Award winner, 1963 

After more than 100 years in the game, Henselite knows a thing or two about lawn bowls. Today, the family-owned Aussie company is a world-leading equipment and accessories supplier for the popular sport. 

A passion for precision, quality and consistency led the late R. W. Hensell to invent the first Henselite phenolic bowl in the 1930s. It was a revolutionary jump forward, transforming lawn bowls into a highly skilled and competitive international sport. 

Supplying equipment for China’s first bowling green in Guangzhou in early 2000 is one of Henselite’s many landmark achievements. The company has worked hard to promote and develop the sport throughout Asia, with great success.

Representing Australian innovation around the world 

Henselite won an Australian Export Award at the first Australian Export Awards in 1963. The late Bruce Hensell, who had joined his father Raymond in the business in 1956, saw the win as a validation of Henselite’s success in representing Australian innovation around the world. 

Henselite received two more Australian Export Awards over the next two decades. The company is proud to have inspired other Australian businesses to innovate and export to global markets. 

An opportunity for connection and learning 

Henselite sees the Australian Export Awards as a great opportunity for businesses to be recognised for their work representing Australia. The company sees even greater value in the awards today with more opportunities for connection and learning alongside other finalists. It also highlights brand enhancement and application feedback as strong motivations to apply. 

Henselite celebrated its 100th birthday in 2018. In 2021, the fourth generation Hensells sold the company to Ian and Thomas Paterson. The new owners are building on the foundations created over the last 100 years. They have exciting plans to further grow the Henselite brand, and the sport of lawn bowls, on the world stage. 

Man next to table
Historic photo of people working in factory making bowling balls
Images courtesy of Henselite.

Images courtesy of Henselite

1969 winner: SunRice, Cream of the crop

As one of the world’s largest and most loved rice food companies, SunRice can rightly lay claim to its iconic Aussie brand status. 

SunRice is a major player in the global food market, with leading brands in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East. It has a suite of complementary and subsidiary businesses in Australia and around the world, exporting rice and food products to 50 countries. 

Australian Export Award win a significant part of SunRice history 

‘The SunRice Group has an incredibly proud history and winning the Australian Export Awards forms a significant part of that,’ says SunRice Group CEO, Rob Gordon.  

In 1969, SunRice won its first Australian Export Award in recognition of its contribution to Australia’s rice-growing industry. The company was recognised another four times in the subsequent decades. 

‘Winning the awards was a major achievement. It saw us recognised alongside some of the best exporters in the country and provided important validation that we were on the right track,’ says Gordon. 

From the Riverina to the world

‘We have been on a significant journey since winning our first award back in 1969,’ says Gordon. ‘Back then, the company was very much focused on processing and marketing the Australian rice crop in premium markets. Now, we are a truly global food group.’ 

SunRice’s roots and heritage remain firmly in the Riverina region of New South Wales. It also employs more than 2,000 people around the world. The company has built strong demand for more than 35 major brands. It distributes more than 1,100 products extending far beyond the rice category. 

Showcase your story

Gordon would ‘highly recommend’ applying to the Australian Export Awards. 

‘There are many great Australian businesses manufacturing and exporting fantastic food products to a myriad of markets around the world,’ he says. 

‘The more that we can showcase these wonderful stories through initiatives like the Australian Export Awards Program, the better.’

Visit the Sunrice website.

Two men from Sunrice standing in a rice field
Rice in a serving dish with a packet of Low GI rice
Rice dishes and a packet of rice

Images courtesy of SunRice

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