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Australia and Southeast Asia: Shaping a Shared Future

This work is the culmination of six months of consultations with more than 150 experts from across the development, diplomacy and defence communities.

It outlines a vision for what an integrated approach to foreign policy looks like in practice for Australia in Southeast Asia.

Synthesis Report

Southeast Asia has been considered one of Australia’s highest foreign policy priorities since at least the 1940s. But it has been difficult to achieve the sustained attention the region deserves.

Current geopolitical and geoeconomic trends provide a window of opportunity, with Southeast Asia a focus of attention for Australian decision-makers. Right now, there is the potential for a step-change in relations.

Australia needs a new vision for its engagement with Southeast Asia that extends across government and society. For Australia to influence and shape the region, it needs to use all tools of statecraft to achieve its foreign policy objectives, bringing together development, diplomacy and defence to achieve maximum effect.

Beyond government, Australia needs a whole-of-nation approach that builds a common vision across Australian society with a narrative that galvanises and inspires.

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About the program

These reports are the product of the Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue’s inaugural program, ‘Shaping a shared future — deepening Australia’s influence in Southeast Asia and the Pacific’, funded by the Australian Civil-Military Centre.

The aim of the program is to generate more effective approaches to advancing Australia’s influence in Southeast Asia and the Pacific through the integrated application of development, diplomacy and defence perspectives. In other words, to outline what “using all elements of statecraft” looks like in practice.

The program is structured around two consecutive 6-month components which bring together experts from across the three communities to:

to determine key operational and policy impediments to Australia's influence in Southeast Asia and the Pacific

the development, diplomacy and defence communities to look at policy options in priority areas

a suite of strategies, policies and tools to enhance Australia's relationships in Southeast Asia and the Pacific

AP4D would like to thank the Australian Civil-Military Centre for its support in funding this inaugural program. Thanks are due to everyone who contributed their thoughts during the development of these papers. Views expressed cannot be attributed to any individuals or organisations involved in the process.

For more information on this project, email

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