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The Colombo Plan

The Colombo Plan

This scene shows Chinese students sponsored under the Colombo Plan studying in Australia. Other students in this scene are receiving their degrees

Chinese students sponsored under the Colombo Plan are shown studying in Australia. Other students can be seen receiving their degrees.

Strengthening relationships with Asia

In the decades following the Second World War, the White Australia policy increasingly came under question. A centrepiece of Australian foreign policy was the introduction of the Colombo Plan in 1951, aimed at strengthening relationships with Asia. This scheme, initiated by Australia and Ceylon (Sri Lanka), provided aid to countries in need of assistance. The Colombo Plan played a major role in improving stability in the region. Original signatories were Australia, Canada, Ceylon, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Malaya and North Borneo, but later the membership expanded to 25 countries.

By 1970 Australia had donated $A300 million to the Colombo Plan. Assistance was given in the form of expertise, food and equipment and the education of Asian students in Australia, many of whom were Chinese. Although these students had to leave Australia on the completion of their studies, many migrated to Australia. By the 1980s over 20,000 students had benefited from the plan.