Penny Wong giving a keynote speech in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur (Image: DFAT/YouTube)

This is an excerpt of a keynote address delivered by Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong in Kuala Lumpur during a trip to Malaysia to push for closer ties with South-East Asia.

It is an extraordinary privilege and honour to stand here today in Malaysia as Australia's foreign minister. I doubt my poh-poh [grandmother] could ever have imagined it. Her name was Madam Lai Fung Shim. She was of Hakka descent. When the war came to Malaysia, she and the rest of the family were in Sandakan.

Most of our family died in the war, and Poh-Poh was left alone to care for her children in the hardest of circumstances. She was barely literate. She was loving and humble, and the strongest person I have ever known. In times of struggle I think of her and what she had to endure.