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Southeast Asia

Office of Southeast Asia

The Office of Southeast Asia (OSA) was established in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in 2022 to support and coordinate Australia’s whole-of-nation efforts to deepen engagement with Southeast Asia.

Australia’s future is tied to the future of Southeast Asia. We are invested, engaged and committed to the region. We have strong and longstanding connection with the countries of Southeast Asia and have a shared interest in fostering a region that is open, stable, and prosperous. We work closely together with our Southeast Asian partners to harness our collective strengths to tackle regional and global challenges. Our starting point is to listen and understand the regional perspectives on the opportunities and challenges that we face and how we can meet them together.

Eleven people stand on a podium against the backdrop of Melbourne cityscape, shaking hands through crossed and joined arms.
Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, with Southeast Asian counterparts at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations, held in Melbourne, Australia from 4-6 March 2024. Image credit: Andrew Taylor | ASEAN.

OSA, led by Deputy Secretary of the South and Southeast Asia Group (SSG) Michelle Chan, comprises three divisions: Southeast Asia Maritime Division (SMD); Southeast Asia Regional and Mainland Division (SRD); and Southeast Asia Strategy and Development Division (SSD). OSA works on a wide range of complex issues in collaboration with our 17 Posts in the region, and across DFAT Canberra and whole-of-government partners.

Ten people stand in a group in front of a banner commemorating the 50th anniversary of ASEAN-Australia dialogue relations.
DFAT Secretary Jan Adams AO PSM and Deputy Secretary SSG Michelle Chan with Southeast Asian Heads of Missions to Australia at reception in DFAT, Canberra, 26 April 2024. Image credit: DFAT.

OSA's functions include:

  • Diplomacy and bilateral relations: managing and strengthening Australia's diplomatic relationships with all 11 Southeast Asian countries. OSA supports leader-level, ministerial and senior officials' engagement, and facilitates regular dialogues, meetings, and diplomatic activities to promote cooperation and address shared challenges.
  • Regional engagement: facilitating whole-of-government engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and ASEAN-led architecture, including the East Asia Summit (EAS) and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), to address regional challenges and foster cooperation.
  • Trade and economic relations: working to increase two-way trade and investment between Australia and Southeast Asia, and supporting implementation of recommendations in Invested: Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040 (the Moore Report).
  • Development cooperation: managing Australia's development cooperation to support our Southeast Asian partners and advance a peaceful, stable and prosperous region.
  • Security cooperation: addressing regional security issues through dialogue, multilateral forums, and cooperation with Southeast Asian partners. Shared security challenges include maritime security, transnational crime, counterterrorism, cyber, and human trafficking.
  • Cultural and people-to-people exchanges: promoting cultural understanding and people-to-people connections between Australia and Southeast Asian countries through supporting education and cultural initiatives, grants and exchange programs under a new ASEAN-Australia Centre (AAC), announced at the ASEAN-Australia Special Commemorative Summit, and the Australia-Indonesia Institute (AII).
Ten people stand in a row alongside a Canberra Fellowship banner.
Deputy Secretary SSG Michelle Chan, SRD First Assistant Secretary Robyn Mudie and Ambassador for Gender Equality Stephanie Copus-Campbell welcome a delegation of Thai female political leaders under the Canberra Fellowship Program, Canberra, 26 March 2024. Image credit: DFAT | Sarah Hodges.
Five people stand in a row in front of a framed picture depicting a brown house on the wall.
Deputy Secretary SSG Michelle Chan, Deputy Secretary SCG Elly Lawson and SMD First Assistant Secretary Dr Lauren Bain meeting with the Head of Foreign Policy Strategy Agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia Dr Yayan Mulyana, Canberra, 22 March 2024. Image credit: DFAT | Michael Godfrey.
Seven people stand in a row in front of Australian and Lao flags
Deputy Secretary SSG Michelle Chan, SSD First Assistant Secretary Gerald Thomson and Ambassador for Climate Change Kristin Tilley meeting with the Laos Minister for Energy and Mines, HE Phosay Sayasone, Canberra, 24 April 2024. Image credit: DFAT | Rhiannon Johannes.
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