Chunchai ( Tongyode) Giugni
|First name||Chunchai ( Tongyode)|
|Country of Origin||Thailand|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1977|
|Submitted by||Chunchai Giugni|
Chunchai arrived in Canberra as a Career Diplomat at the Office of Commercial Counsellor, Royal Thai Embassy in September 1977. This was the culmination of many years of dedicated study and support from her family of 3 girls and 2 boys. While Chunchai’s father was a successful lawyer in the public service, the family lived modestly in Bangkok and was immensely proud of her when she graduated in Accountancy and then achieved her Masters in Marketing by winning an A.I.D. scholarship to Syracuse University in New York. This was a real feather in her cap and even though all her siblings did well, Chunchai’s achievements shone brightly in a world where Thai male achievement was more readily recognised. After this overseas experience, it was natural for her to want to use her qualifications in the Embassy- First Secretary (Commercial) in Australia (1977-87) was the preferred posting over Switzerland and Japan because it was new and the idea of all those exciting experiences was an opportunity not to be missed.
‘All things being new’ wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been for a single person and the New York experience provided rich experience to draw on. There was no cultural shock as such because the 1960’s and 1970’s had seen many Chinese people/food/ingredients pass through the landscape of Australian life. When she found comfort in the kitchen, she found greater overall comfort but Chunchai did find it very quiet. Imagine life in village like Canberra after the teeming energy of Bangkok! Imagine the strangeness of only encountering Anglo Saxon faces! Luckily, the Commercial Counsellor took her under his wings and the Thai-Australia Association also provided a ready network of friends to make Ozzie life less lonely.
During her time in Canberra, Chunchai married Joe (Giuseppe Giugni) but marriage with associated overseas postings proved difficult-it meant that offers of promotions were rejected simply to remain with Joe and their son Paulo. Joe’s landmark fruit and vegetable business called WIFFENS at the Fyshwick Markets required his attention here too so this was the beginning of postings in Rome (First Secretary-Commercial 1988-89), Bangkok (Senior Economist-Ministry of Commerce 1990-91) and finally Sydney (Consul, Commercial 1992-2004) where Chunchai’s mother-in-law stepped in supportively, making herself available to travel and be the major ‘mother figure’ when Chunchai needed assistance. Interestingly, the whole relationship with the Italian family she married into felt much the same as though she was married into a Thai one-the closeness and importance of family made her feel very much at home and the mutual support for each other was very beneficial for Chunchai and Joe….this was a healthy reflection of the multicultural ideals they encountered as Thai and as Italian.
After early retirement in April 2004, Chunchai has worked tirelessly and consistently as Honorary Trade Advisor to the Ministry of Commerce, Royal Thai Government. Whilst working as a career diplomat, her life’s work has been one dedicated to co-operation between Thailand and Australia. Broadly, her objective now as an Honorary Trade Advisor is to foster greater understanding in areas of Commerce between Thailand and Australia. Chunchai works to promote Thai products here and vice versa, keeping abreast of Australian law to facilitate easier trade relations and also arranging export missions to participate in the Bangkok Fair to expose Australian goods to the Thai market. This mutually beneficial activity has been her consistent passion, not only in trade but also importantly in community matters such as ‘Friends of Thai’. Hand in hand with this, Joe and Chunchai continue to generously support various causes for the benefit of the community.