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ASEAN’s ‘Melbourne Declaration’ strengthens partnership, hints at expanded future partnership

The ASEAN-Australia Special Summit Commemorates the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations. (Source: ASEAN)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have announced the “Melbourne Declaration”, reaffirming their commitment to securing peace, stability, prosperity, and a sustainable future for the region.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have announced the “Melbourne Declaration”, reaffirming their commitment to securing peace, stability, prosperity, and a sustainable future for the region.

As part of Australia hosting this year, which marks 50 years since Australia became ASEAN’s first Dialogue Partner, the summit was built around the theme of “A Partnership for the Future”.

Prime Minister Albanese hosted the leaders of the Lao PDR, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Timor-Leste in Melbourne at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.


The gathered leaders set out their shared aspirations for the future of Southeast Asia, committing to work together to contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability, as well as enhance cooperation for sustainable development and prosperity in the region.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said, “ASEAN binds our region together and I can say with confidence that our partnership has never been stronger or more consequential to our mutual prosperity and to the stability of the region we call home.”

Additionally, the leaders identified areas of practical cooperation and collaboration for the future, ranging from deepening economic and sociocultural ties to strengthening educational and environmental cooperation.

In line with Australia’s deep and continuing relationship with ASEAN and the priority the Commonwealth government places on building stronger partnerships with Southeast Asia, Prime Minister Albanese announced:

  • Creating the “ASEAN-Australia Centre” in Canberra, to begin from 1 July 2024. The centre will be a focal point for engagement with ASEAN and promote greater Southeast Asia cultural literacy in Australia. The Centre will focus on strengthening business, education, cultural and community connections between Australia, ASEAN member states, and Timor-Leste.
  • More than 75 new Aus4ASEAN scholarships, some of which will be co-funded by Australian universities, and 55 fellowships for emerging leaders from the region to have a world-class Australian education.
  • An energy cooperation package under the Aus4ASEAN Futures Initiative to enhance ASEAN-led regional energy policy and planning, including implementation of the ASEAN Strategy for Carbon Neutrality. The package will support the ASEAN Centre for Energy and the establishment of an ASEAN centre for climate change in Brunei Darussalam.
  • Providing English language training for Timor-Leste to support its path to full ASEAN membership. The package will enable valuable training to help Timor-Leste engage effectively in ASEAN.

“Australia is committed to being an exemplary partner to the countries of Southeast Asia – we will continue to be constructive, and to engage with respect, honesty and trust, and, importantly, to listen," Prime Minister Albanese added.

To build on these initiatives, the Albanese government announced a number of initiatives designed to implement key recommendations from “Invested: Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040”, launched in 2023, including:

  • Creating a $2 billion Southeast Asia investment financing facility to catalyse Australian investment in the region in key sectors such as infrastructure and the clean energy transition.
  • Extending Australia’s Partnerships for Infrastructure initiative that supports efforts to improve regional infrastructure development and attract more diverse, quality infrastructure finance.
  • Appointing 10 business champions to facilitate greater commercial links between Australia and the economies of ASEAN, ensuring government and the private sector work in tandem to boost our two-way trade and investment.
  • Establishing new regional “Landing Pads” in Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City to bolster Australian technology exports and support the region’s digital transformation.
  • Improving visa access for Southeast Asia, with the extension of the Business Visitor Visa from three to five years, and the introduction of the Frequent Traveller stream, providing 10-year visas for eligible ASEAN member states. This sends a clear signal that Australia is open for business.
  • Announcing the location of regional hubs for Investment Deal Teams in Singapore, Jakarta, and Ho Chi Minh City.
  • The first business mission under the Australia-Southeast Asia Business Exchange to Singapore and Malaysia in April focusing on green energy transition.

These serve as key components for building and enhancing the economic, political and important people-to-people links that are essential to enhancing and maintaining peace, prosperity, and stability in the region.

Prime Minister Albanese said, “ASEAN and Australia’s economies are deeply intertwined. We want to play a bigger role in Southeast Asia’s pursuit of economic opportunity, development, and growth.

"My government has made serious, sustained and consistent international engagement a priority – working together with our friends and partners to shape the future we want to see,” the Prime Minister said.

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