Plenary Speakers

Plenary 2
Mrs Laura Hwang
Speaker's profile

Laura Hwang has been recognised for her leadership in both the financial and community service sectors for her strong strategic, business and leadership abilities. She was appointed the Singapore Representative of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the rights of Women and Children in 2014.

Her 17-year career in banking saw her being appointed as the first Singaporean and woman to head an international financial company in Singapore. Her responsibilities included Corporate Banking, Foreign Exchange, Asset Management and Private Banking in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia. She was appointed to the Bank’s financial arms in Bangkok and Hong Kong.

Her financial expertise has seen the successful development of a family investment vehicle and her appointment to non-profit boards, including serving and chairing audit committees and investment committees.

As the President of the SCWO from 2010-2014, she led the co-ordinating Council for 57 organisations with a combined outreach of over 700,000. Her experience with this large constituency has connected her with a variety of perspectives and contacts at all levels – from grassroots to Government. She has successfully motivated changes to the Women’s Charter and the establishment of improved legal and support systems for divorced women & families with Maintenance Support Central and Chairs the committee that oversees the MSC. She was co-chair of BoardAgender, the initiative for promoting the business case for women on boards.

During her service till July 2014 as 3rd Director of the ASEAN Confederation of Women’s Organisations, she has developed a strong regional perspective, understanding and contact across the region. She is a highly regarded speaker and moderator at seminars and conferences in ASEAN, Dubai and in 2013, a forum for the All China Women’s Federation in Beijing. She also held appointments with several bodies in the public and community sectors in fields such as healthcare, finance and the arts.

She has received the BBM, Public Service Star, the National Day Award for services to the community and MSF and received the PBM, Public Service Medal nominated by MCI in 2013. She has also received both international and local awards in recognition of her contributions.

Programme Details

Track : Plenary 2
Day 1, 30 January 2019
11.45am - 12.30pm
Topic : Overview of Improving Mental Health Systems in ASEAN Member States (AMS)


There is increased awareness of the need to address and improve mental health care in all AMS. Common barriers faced are stigmatisation, lack of understanding and family support, difficulties of access to facilities and financial problems. In several AMS, traditional belief systems that view mental illness as possession by spirits or the result of black magic are still widely held especially in remote areas, resulting in many not being treated and end up being restrained or neglected.

There is a broad similarity in the types of mental illness encountered, such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, OCD, and alcohol abuse, with variations in the order of occurrence. Singapore is among the few who have highlighted age-related dementia as an area to address. With the ageing population in Singapore, it is timely to focus on this in terms of education of families and other care resource development.