Responsible for spearheading the Victorian chapter of the Australia Malaysia Business Council and leading a landscape poised for change, Joe Perri is the face of the campaign championing bilateral trade and relations with Malaysia. Deborah Joy Peter tells his story.
The story begins over six decades ago. An obscure immigrant couple of Italian descent, whose only real chance at survival at the time, was to pick up what was left of their mangled existence after the second World War, exit their motherland, and start over in a whole new world—the forever home they would soon recognise as Australia. The man goes ahead, slogs to save a few coins, and sends them back for the woman. She then joins him in Sydney where they exchange vows before settling down in Melbourne.
The pair’s labours haven’t fallen on futile ground. The testament of their triumphs and tribulations are captured through a single fruit of their union—a male offspring who’d go on to become a walking legend. That human treasure is who the world today celebrates as Joe Perri, the president of the Australia Malaysia Business Council’s (AMBC) Victorian chapter. A master of ship who directs with heart and depth, his origins mark a set of footprints indelibly printed on the sands of a past bent on making history.
Holding dear beliefs, lessons, and strength of character passed down from parents who dared to dream, his remarkable trail, according to the man himself, is the sum total of a heritage rooted in sheer perseverance. “Their love, care, and guidance have stayed with me always and continue to provide me with a beacon and are the values and morals which sit at the core of my character when relating to my own wife, family, friends, and clients, and so on,” Perri notes.
Although well into his fifties, he continues to look to his exemplary guardians as his ultimate source of inner zest. Smiling on the path already trodden, he’s anxious to plot the voyage that remains. It’s been 10 years since his immersion in international trade relations began. He was propositioned to use his wealth of marketing and communications expertise to assist the newly appointed national president of the AMBC at the time. Eagerly accepting, he then proceeded to join the organisation in his home base as member.
“The activities of the council, friendly nature of its members, their diverse backgrounds, and business interests in Malaysia motivated me to go beyond just being a member and led to my joining the Victorian executive team.”
Here, his skills in marketing, public relations, communications, and more were put to good use. As a result, the appointment followed his election to VP and subsequently president, three years ago. Nine years before his first AMBC commission, the marketer founded his personal venture, Joe Perri & Associates.
Picking up on that last point, his duties are divided into two streams—a commercial side where he helps businesses achieve goals through marketing and PR processes as well as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) side which he commits to in a voluntary capacity as president.
He adds cultural understanding and appreciation are feats to tackle, and that the way forward is to have the Asian and Western ways of conducting business adjust accordingly so the best of both worlds is the ultimate outcome. Facing these hurdles won’t be a cinch, but the implications on leadership and prospect of having to flex his captain of industry is justification enough for a heightened sense of exhilaration on his part. “What an exciting time to be in business. International trade is quite frankly in overdrive,” the AMBC head quips.
It’s become increasingly clear to Perri that no country or economy can operate in isolation; every nation is now part of the global ecosystem. To maintain success and strengthen mutually-beneficial trade and investments between countries, alliances are a necessity—and more so, since Malaysia is Australia’s eighth largest trading partner. “The Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement enforced in 2013 was a significant step forward and will continue to be a platform to build on with more trade between the two nations.”
Needless to say, the unified body’s greatest asset is its members; they comprise business owners with commercial operations in Malaysia and Malaysian-born expatriates in Victoria. For the reasons above, the values of AMBC Victoria, especially those CSR-related, reflect that of Perri’s own, such as service to community and country and giving back to a nation that has aided those seeking to expand their businesses and in so doing, had created jobs for countless Australian and Malaysian families.
On family, Perri’s consists of his wife, Luigina, two children, Danielle and Matthew, a goldfish as well as a “spoilt cat”. The latest to join that lineage is his son’s fiancée, Juliet. Their wedding takes place in October—the festivities for which the entire household is keenly anticipating. For senior, coming home to a loving family is one of the truest blessings in life. He may be a trade specialist, but the people mentioned above aren’t anyone he’d exchange for anything else.
Adding to that list, he is just as proud to have seen the world. Speaking of going places, the wanderlust-lover recently spent a weekend away with loved ones at a small township called Metung in the beautiful Gippsland Lakes area, a four-hour drive from Melbourne. “It was literally divine. No tourist attractions, McDonalds, theme parks, cable TV or even a decent cell phone signal. Each morning, we woke to the sound of dolphins, seals, and pelicans in the water.” Now, he can’t wait to get back in a month.