Australia–United Kingdom relations

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Australia–United Kingdom relations
Map indicating locations of Australia and United Kingdom


United Kingdom
Diplomatic Mission
Australian High Commission, London British High Commission, Canberra
High Commissioner Alexander Downer High Commissioner Menna Rawlings

Australia–United Kingdom relations, also referred to as Anglo–Australian relations, are regarded as one of the closest international relationships in existence, marked by culture, institutions and language, extensive people-to-people links, aligned security interests, sporting tournaments (notably The Ashes, a Test Cricket series), and vibrant trade and investment cooperation.


Australia and Britain share a sovereign, Elizabeth II

The long-standing relationship between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Commonwealth of Australia formally began in 1901 when the six British Crown colonies in Australia federated, and the Commonwealth of Australia was formed as a Dominion of the British Empire.

Australia fought alongside Britain and its Allies in World War I, notably at Gallipoli (against Turkey) and the Western Front. It fought with Britain and its allies again in World War II, protecting Britain's Pacific colonies from Imperial Japan.

Until 1949, Britain and Australia shared a common nationality code. The final constitutional ties between United Kingdom and Australia ended in 1986 with the passing of the Australia Act 1986.

Formal economic relations between the two countries declined following Britain's accession to the European Economic Community in 1973. Nevertheless, the United Kingdom remains the second largest overall foreign investor in Australia. In turn, Australia is the seventh largest foreign direct investor in Britain.

Due to Australia's history as a colony of Britain, the two nations retain significant shared threads of cultural heritage, many of which are common to all Anglosphere countries. English is the de facto language of both nations. Both legal systems are based on the common law.

Pom is a common nickname given by Australians to British people, said in jest without malice or prejudice, in a similar way to how British (and other) people call Australians Aussies, and refer to Australia as "Oz" or "down under" (a reference to the fact that Australia is notable for being entirely in the southern hemisphere).


Streams of migration from the British Isles to Australia played a key role in Australia's development, and the people of Australia are still predominantly of British or Irish origin. According to the 2011 Australian Census, around 1.1 million Australians were born in Britain, despite the last substantial scheme for preferential migration from Britain to Australia ending in 1972.

The former prime minister, Julia Gillard, was born in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan in Wales. The leader of the Liberal Party of Australia, and current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott was also born in Britain, although to Australian parents.

There is a population of around 400,000 Australians in Britain, especially in Greater London.[1]

In recent years there has been growing support for the idea of freedom of movement between the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand with citizens able to live and work in any of the four countries - similar to the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement between Australia and New Zealand.[2][3]


4-engined plane flies over ship
Australian AP-3C Orion joins UK survey ship HMS Echo in the search for MH370

The two countries have a long history of close collaboration in military affairs. In modern times they are members of the AUSCANNZUKUS military alliance including the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance with the US, Canada and New Zealand, and the Five Power Defence Arrangements with Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand. They also collaborate in ad-hoc groupings like Combined Task Force 151 to counter piracy off Somalia, and the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in 2014. Australia shared the British honours system until 1975, and so four Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross in the Vietnam War despite Britain not participating. Australia created its own VC in 1991, made from the same block of metal as the British ones.


The contemporary political relationship between London and Canberra is underpinned by a robust bilateral dialogue at head-of-government, ministerial and senior officials level. As Commonwealth realms, the two countries share a monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, and are both active members within the Commonwealth of Nations. In 2006, British Prime Minister Tony Blair became the first British head of government to address the Australian Parliament.

Australian maintains a High Commission in London. The United Kingdom, in turn, maintains a High Commission in Canberra.

In September 2012, the UK and Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding on diplomatic cooperation, with the intention of extending the scheme to include Australia and New Zealand.



London celebrates England's victory in the 2005 Ashes cricket series

Australia excels in many sports that originate in England, and the two countries enjoy a close sporting rivalry. The rivalry is typified by their Test cricket series for The Ashes; there were ticker-tape parades when England won the 2005 series after 18 years of Australian domination. The finest moment of the England rugby union team was beating Australia to win the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Sydney; their rugby league counterparts have been far less successful. The two countries usually vie for leadership of the medal table at the Commonwealth Games - in 2014 England came top with 174 medals, and Australia second with 137 medals. Melbourne golfer Peter Thomson is the second-most successful at The Open Championship with 5 wins. Australian tennis players have been particularly successful in the men's doubles at Wimbledon with pairings such as Mark Woodforde and 9-time winner Todd Woodbridge; Rod Laver, John Newcombe and Margaret Court all won multiple singles titles at Wimbledon but no British player has won the Australian Open since 1934.


There is a long history of cultural exchange between the two countries, and Australians often use Britain as a stepping-stone to international success, whether they be artists such as Barry Humphries or businessmen such as Rupert Murdoch who controls flagship newspapers such as The Times and has a large stake in pay-TV company BSkyB. Australian soap operas became particularly popular in the late 1980s and 1990s, with Neighbours commanding British daily audiences of 19 million in 1990[4] although this declined to 5 million by 2007, still nearly ten times the Australian audience.[4] Soap alumni such as Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan have continued to have successful careers in music and on the stage in Britain, while Neighbours has even been held responsible for introducing the rising inflection to England.[5] Australian comedians have thrived in the UK, from Clive James to Adam Hills and Tim Minchin. Academic Germaine Greer played a leading rôle in British gender politics after the publication of The Female Eunuch in London in 1970. Vassilie Trunoff led tours of his native Australia as ballet master of what became the English National Ballet. In autumn 2013, the Royal Academy held a major survey of Australian art.[6]


Monthly value of Australian merchandise exports to the United Kingdom (A$ millions) since 1988
Monthly value of UK merchandise exports to Australia (A$ millions) since 1988

The City of London has been funding the development of resources in Australia since colonial times, and Anglo-Australian companies have become some of the biggest multinational mining companies such as Rio Tinto Group and BHP Billiton. The oil industry in Australia started with Commonwealth Oil Refineries, a collaboration between the Australian government and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later BP). Ties are strong in the media industry; Rupert Murdoch's involvement in British newspapers and BSkyB is mentioned above, but FremantleMedia has gone the other way to acquire and merge Crackerjack Productions with the creators of Neighbours.

Science and engineering[edit]

The two countries jointly operated the Anglo-Australian Observatory until 2010 including the Anglo-Australian Telescope and UK Schmidt Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales. The Anglo-Australian Joint Project set up Woomera Test Range in South Australia in 1946 to test missiles such as Blue Steel; more recently it has been used to test the BAE Systems Taranis, a prototype unmanned combat aircraft.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Born Abroad – Australia". BBC News. 2005-09-07. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  2. ^ "Australians and New Zealanders should be free to live and work in UK, report says". Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  3. ^ "Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation". CFMO. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Five wins Neighbours soap fight". BBC News. 18 May 2007. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "The unstoppable march of the upward inflection?". BBC News. 11 August 2014. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  6. ^