I have previously discussed diversity in Australia’s export portfolio and how that helped us avoid being swept into recession along with the rest of the world. This raised its head again recently when I had the privilege of reading the more than 40 nominations for the 2010 Australian Export Heroes Awards. Created by the Australian Institute of Export more than 10 years ago, the awards recognise people who have made an outstanding contribution not only to export, but to building Australia’s reputation overseas as a leader in many fields of endeavour. It always amazes me that Australians can not only do almost anything, but also do it to a level that’s world’s best practice. This year’s Australian Export Heroes are certainly good examples. Take Will Hutchinson who runs Thomas Electronics, a Western Sydney company that works in the very complex field of avionics. Will has worked tirelessly for more than 20 years to gain accreditation and certification from a wide range of international authorities, which has positioned his company as a leading supplier of electronic systems and display technologies. Today, Thomas Electronics is the designated support facility for cockpit display units used by the Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces, as well as over 25 international airlines. Diversity goes even further when one looks at the achievements of Queensland-based Vivienne Lipke, the owner of Icecraft International, producing and marketing unique ice mould freezing systems used in hospitality venues, hotels and retail outlets in more than 117 countries from Alaska to Zimbabwe. Next time you are in Harrods, an Inter-Continental, Ritz-Carlton or one of more than 40 top hotels, the ice sculpture in the ballroom very likely came from a mould made by Vivienne’s family business just south of Brisbane. And it doesn’t stop there. Alan Oppenheim, managing director of Ego Pharmaceuticals, also joined the register of export heroes this year. Alan, after being appointed scientific director in 1981 has been instrumental in taking the well-known Ego brands first to Cyprus in 1990 then the UAE, Iran, Malta, Bahrain and Jordan and today across Asia. For an Australian company to successfully compete in the world of skincare is not only a credit to Alan and his team but to those who have developed the technology required to be internationally competitive. Going to yet another extreme of diversity is Paul Henry, senior principal of the global specialist architecture firm Populous, world leaders in the design of stadia, racecourses, arenas and the planning of Olympic Games. Paul leads the Asian region and sits on the Populous worldwide board. The firm has designed more than 1,000 projects in 24 countries, and during his extensive career, Paul has led the team designing the Sydney Olympic stadium, the Beijing 2008 Olympic Buildings Brief, Nanjing Sports Park for the China National Games and the master plans for the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Australians not only love sport, but architecture, stadium construction and starting gates also play a significant role in our export earnings. Out of the ACT comes another fine example of diversity. David Gaul started his career in the Royal Australian Navy, where he spent 22 years as a naval officer. In 1983, with Ian Croser, David founded CEA Technologies, a Fyshwick-based company specialising in the design, development and manufacture of advanced radar and communications solutions for civil and military applications. David and his team have taken their capability to all corners of the earth with projects in Europe, the Middle East and the USA. In 2003, David was awarded Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and received the Centenary Medal for Services to Australian Defence. Education has, for many years now, occupied a strong position in Australia’s export performance. Max Schroder was one of the people that drove the birth and growth of what is now a major contributor to export. After many years at the University of New South Wales, and driving the marketing function of a consortium of NSW and ACT universities, Max took a major career shift into private enterprise establishing the Sydney Institute of Business & Technology (SIBT) in collaboration with, and on the campus of, Macquarie University. SIBT established colleges here in Australia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Zambia, Indonesia and the UK. To remain in strong economic shape, Australia needs export. For export to remain strong, Australian needs to diversify across a range of disciplines. It also needs people like our Australian Export Heroes who, apart from being passionate about the cause, are entrepreneurial, focused and willing to make sacrifices to drive their businesses beyond world’s best practice.