New Colombo Plan: a pillar of Australia’s Public Diplomacy By Arundathie Abeysinghe

New Colombo Plan: a pillar of Australia’s Public Diplomacy

By Arundathie Abeysinghe


Ms. Arundathie AbeysingheThe New Colombo Plan (NCP), a signature initiative of the Australian Government is a scholarship program offered to undergraduates in Australian Universities studying diverse disciplines in approximately 40 locations in the Indo-Pacific region. Scholars undertake study, internship or mentorship as well as language training during a 12 month period.

The Australian Government has reinforced its public diplomacy endeavors in the Indo-Pacific region to persuade foreign public opinion. As such, the NCP is advocated as a pillar of the Australian Government’s Public Diplomacy Strategy emphasizing its accomplishments to foster a secure future for Australia in the Indo-Pacific region. NCP is a flexible mobility grants program for short and long term study, workshops, *practicum as well as research programs.

The scholarship program is granted to scholars in partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), host universities, host organizations and agencies, a worthwhile experience and exposure to scholars. 

The Australian Government initiated NCP as a study and work-based experience program in the Indo-Pacific region to become a rite of passage for young Australian undergraduates as well as lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia. As such, in 2014, the NCP began as a pilot program supporting 40 scholars.

The NCP is a foreign policy program of the Australian Government commenced with a context due to the long-term Colombo Plan that was initiated at a meeting of member countries of the *Commonwealth of Nations during the early 1950s in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

A major feature of NCP is the growth of effective people-to-people links as well as institutional relationships through collaboration of undergraduates, universities, business and stakeholders.  

According to scholars, NCP is focused to boost Australia’s foreign relations in the Indo-Pacific region, a foremost Public Diplomacy program launched with the objective of building a secure future for Australia in the region.

Meanwhile, DFAT is of the view that eventually, the growth of NCP alumni will play a significant role by being a diverse as well as an influential network of Australians contributing to project Public Diplomacy of the Australian Government. 

According to former Prime Minister of Australia *Tony Abbot, the NCP is a “two-way street”” in which Australia and the region could learn from each other The Sydney Morning Herald, 2013).


New Colombo Plan: a pillar of Australia’s Public Diplomacy By Arundathie Abeysinghe

Meanwhile, former Foreign Minister *Julie Bishop was of the view that NCP provided undergraduates in Australia immense experience and exposure by living and studying in the Indo-Pacific region.   

Hence, former Foreign Affairs Minister Bishop, when launching the NCP program has described her vision as follows: 

My inspiration for this policy was to support Australian undergraduate students to live, study and work in our region. As a former Education Minister, I saw the need for greater opportunities for Australian students to study in our region. I reversed the original Colombo Plan in order to achieve that outcome. In 2013, I launched the NCP as a signature foreign policy initiative of the Coalition Government to reflect its potential to contribute to Australia’s prosperity and security, which is anchored in the Indo-Pacific.

According to NCP recipients, the program was useful and will be of utmost significant for their professional, academic and personal lives in the short term as well as in the long term.

Meanwhile, the Public Diplomacy strategy of Australia is to revitalize the nation’s aura as an innovative as well as a secure country in the Indo-Pacific region with the objective of promoting education to local as well as international students in Australian Universities. Public Diplomacy strategy is launched to build relationships, people-to-people connections as well as engaging with people in a meaningful manner.

According to the Public Diplomacy and Advocacy Handbook of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Public Diplomacy is one of the significant outcomes with which the Department endeavors to reinforce the notion of Australian foreign and trade policies among international public, to portray Australia as a favorable destination for education, trade and tourism, a trusted partner in the Indo-Pacific region as well as a promoter for trade liberalization.

  • Commonwealth – The Commonwealth of Nations known as the Commonwealth is a political association of 54 member states which are territories of the former British Empire. The 54 countries are in Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific. 
  • Julie Isabel Bishop – A former Australian politician who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2013 – 2018 as well as the deputy leader of the Liberal Party from 2007 – 2008. 
  • Practicum – Also known as internships or work placement programs, these programs are designed with the objective of providing students with practical work experience. Students can transfer their knowledge learnt during such a program to work.  
  • Tony Abbot – He was the 28th Prime Minister of Australia (in office from September 18, 2013 – September 15, 2015). The Government was made up of members of the Liberal-National Coalition (well-known as the Coalition – an alliance of center-right political parties which forms one of the two major groupings in Australian federal politics).

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