Australian Foreign Policy since 1941 Essay Example

  • Category:
  • Document type:
  • Level:
    High School
  • Page:
  • Words:

Australian Foreign Policy since 1941

Date: 29th August 2011

Australia has begun the pursuing of a relatively independent foreign policy in the past few decades; from being under the shadows of the US and Britain. The Australian foreign policy have been aggravated by its unique historical circumstances which in turn has led to the development of certain sets of characteristics and attitudes which make it have certain foreign relations behavior. Among the characteristics that have been shown by the policy is among them the dependency syndrome which is first seen with Britain and then the same with the US. The situation of the geographical isolation from the cultural hearth lands of the European region not forgetting the corresponding feeling of threat from Asia as well as their attempt to project to the outside world an Australian identity.

The Australian foreign policy was dominated by the British interests and outlooks. This reflected the immigrant population that was that somehow was overwhelmingly from the England stock. Australia remained a home away from home for the empire and almost every realm of life, from the social, cultural and political of Australia looked to London for the support and guidance. This meant that even its relations with the countries of the outside world were for a very long time mediated by London in a very direct way.

After World War II, there have been two major changes that characterized the foreign policy of Australia. The first of the two changes was a move away from the British circle while the second change was their engagement to make Australia a pacific country. This was drawn from the perceived need for defining the Australian relationship with Asia. As there was expansion of Australia with the rest of the world after World War II, there was the development of the machinery to conduct a foreign policy as an urgent task. With this urgent need for the creation of the foreign policy, there was the need for the establishment of new posts. The obstacles that were lay ahead became the subject matter for the ministers, Diplomats, and Mandarins. This is where the Australian Foreign policy can be traced from; this is the period of 1941-1969.

One of the useful books was written by Joan Beaumont writing four of the eight chapters for the Department of External Affairs which helped the department grow from a small amateur organ to a very significant bureaucratic participant of the road to a foreign policy for Australia. One thing that could be of interest is the method used for staffing the department such as the cadet scheme that was introduced in the year 1942. Their deliberate effort to go for the best and the brightest among the tertiary trained people which included women remain the method used until 1956.

An Australian style emerged in the period of post war era like in the case of the Labor administration which was what controlled the foreign policy at the time. There was also the growth that was seen in the assertive nationalism and a commitment to liberal internationalism which comes with the preference for peaceful resolution of any international disputes that occur and they are therefore resolved by dialogue and negotiations. This was in contrast with what was there before; the conservative tradition which was a real politic view given to the international relations.

Moreover, there was the evolution of Australia’s relationship with its neighbors within Asia which happened to be not a steady progression. There were periods of optimism but a thing worth noting was the cautious note that emerged in Canberra. This resulted to the construction of a solid foundation during that period but by the end of the century, Australia had a fully engaged relation with Asia which in regard to the relations situation that existed in 1945. This relationship had become an abiding priority in Australian foreign policy. There has been growing concerns from diplomats who sees that Australia has more focus on Asia-Pacific rather than Asia most likely what is seen in the present due to the need of the link with the United States as well as the South Pacific where Australia forms a sub-region of its own.

As from the 1980’s, the Australian foreign policy emphasis increased shifting to the multilateralism as well as well as it building within international relations. This is where they created a collective security which was based on a regionalist setting. This is where Australia identified itself as a middle power which was capable of acting on an international stage as an honest broker. It then begun to view itself as one group of states which had liberal democratic traditions with the power to act in concert to the influence of the larger powers while at the same time recognizing the limits of a middle power state. The familiar pattern of having to rely up[on a greater power is still there nonetheless.


Dean, G. (1999). The Development of Australian Foreign Policy. Retrieved August 29, 2011, from

McGibbon, I. (2004, June). Australian Foreign Policy Making 1941-1969. Retrieved August 28, 2011, from