The New Zealand High Commission in Singapore is a proudly diverse community of individuals and strongly supports the role of women in the workplace. Meet High Commissioner Gabby Rush, Trade Commissioner Maggie Christie, and Defence Adviser Shauna Graham to discover more about their work and home lives.

From left: Maggie Christie, Shauna Graham and Gabby Rush

How long have you been in Singapore?

Maggie: Just over three years. We arrived in Singapore in February 2021 – me, my husband and two slightly reluctant teenage boys. 

Shauna: Twelve months, but I was previously posted to Singapore in 2012 – 2015 and I’m living right next door to my old house in Sembawang! 

Gabby: I arrived in Singapore over Lunar New Year 2023 with my partner and two well-travelled Hong Kong cats!

What is the main focus of your role?

MAGGIE: New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE) is New Zealand’s trade promotional agency so our role here in Singapore is supporting and guiding companies to grow into Singapore and South East Asia. For me, it’s working with our Business Development Managers and our customers to validate, enter and grow in Singapore. This includes everything from market insights, introductions to local connections, and buyers to partner. We also provide strategic services and support to inform market entry and growth plans – both from New Zealand and here in Singapore. The other part of my role is building relationships in Singapore to help raise awareness and understanding of what New Zealand can offer, and provide a warmer landing for companies.   

Shauna: As Defence Adviser to Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia I’m the New Zealand Chief of Defence Force’s representative in those countries. I engage with local senior Defence officials to share New Zealand’s position on Defence and Security issues and learn from Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia about regional issues. I look for new opportunities for our nations to work together from niche information sharing events like the NZ/SG Defence Women’s Forum last year, to large scale annual military exercises that New Zealand has been supporting for over 50 years.

Gabby: As High Commissioner, I’m the official representative of the Government of New Zealand in Singapore. I help deliver New Zealand’s foreign and trade policy goals and coordinate New Zealand’s diplomatic links with the government here. A key focus for me is advancing work under the Singapore New Zealand Enhanced Partnership which was established between the two governments in 2019. Outside of core foreign and trade policy goals, I try to represent what is best about our country and highlight our cultural links with Singapore including through music and the arts.

What’s your favourite thing about Singapore?

Maggie: Firstly, the diversity of the culture – the people, the food, the language – you can visit three ‘countries in one day’ – Chinatown, Little India and Arab street! Also, the centrality of Singapore for travel and adventures. 

Shauna: The academic, sporting and cultural opportunities for my son and the amazing life experiences and family memories we’re creating.

Gabby: It is leafy and green and full of interesting, friendly people from many different cultures. I respect the work ethic here and intellectual rigour, but I love that Singaporeans also have a good sense of humour and enjoy having fun.

What’s been your biggest accomplishment since you’ve been here?

Maggie: Along with NZ Inc., delivering our first Prime Minister Mission post Covid. I was so green, and then got Covid on the day of their arrival! The success was seeing every member of the remarkable team pull it off with passion, grace and utter commitment.   

Shauna: Supporting two Royal New Zealand Navy Ships in Singapore and Vietnam last year; the ships and crews completed large scale training, maintenance and diplomatic engagement activities during their deployment to the region. It is great to see New Zealand operating with our partners in support of regional security.

Gabby: Acclimatising to the heat!

What do you miss most about NZ?

Maggie: Of course my family! But aside from that, walking along the beach early in the morning, feeling the sand between my toes, the fresh breeze on my face and Rangitoto in the background.  

Shauna: The accent. (*Editor’s note – this was her actual answer, we didn’t make this up!)

Gabby: My good friends and family, but also the temperate weather, home grown veggies from my garden, the view from Mt Kaukau in Wellington and the joy I get from ocean swimming year-round.

What key life lesson would you like to pass on to girls this International Women’s Day?

Maggie: Don’t second guess yourself. The amount of times I have held myself back thinking I’ll do it when I know a little more or when I’m more confident … that time never comes so you need to grab opportunities with both hands and make the most of them. You learn the most when you fail!

Shauna: Be adventurous. Set goals and run at them with all the energy enthusiasm and determination you can muster. 

Gabby: You don’t have to be perfect to succeed. No matter how accomplished we are, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and up and down times. Learn what your strengths are, work hard to succeed, but when things don’t work out know it’s just part of your journey.