Sri Lanka country brief
Australia and Sri Lanka have common interests in a secure and prosperous Indian Ocean region. We engage regularly on a wide range of issues, from cooperation on economic, security and development priorities, to human rights and reconciliation.
High-level visits and meetings
- 2019 – Third Senior Officials' Talks in Colombo, alongside the inaugural Strategic Maritime Dialogue and the second Joint Trade and Investment Committee meeting.
- 2019 – Then-Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton visited Sri Lanka.
- 2018 – Then-State Minister for Foreign Affairs Vasantha Senanayake visited Australia.
- 2017 – Several high-level visits, including visits by then-President Maithripala Sirisena and then-Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Australia-Sri Lanka diplomatic relationship. Then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and then-Foreign Minister Julie Bishop travelled to Sri Lanka in the same year.
Trade and investment
The 2017 Australia-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement (TIFA) advances economic cooperation between Australia and Sri Lanka. Under TIFA, the Joint Trade and Investment Committee (JTC) strengthens our economic relationship, including facilitating market access and investment. This makes it easier for Australian and Sri Lankan businesses to trade and invest with each other.
Goods and services trade between Australia and Sri Lanka was valued at $1.71 billion in 2019-20, with growth driven by education services and tourism. Australia's total investment in Sri Lanka was $105 million in 2019, and Sri Lanka's total investment in Australia was $149 million.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka was ranked the twentieth most popular tourist destination for Australians, with Australia the fifth largest source of tourists to Sri Lanka. Australia supported Sri Lanka to deliver a national tourism development strategy. We continued to support tourism recovery and resilience in Sri Lanka since the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.
Education plays a significant role in Australia's relationship with Sri Lanka. In 2020, there were more than 13,000 Sri Lankan students studying in Australia. There are 25 Australian education providers active in Sri Lanka. Significant opportunities exist to increase collaboration in the technical and vocational education (TVET) sector.
As a key part of our education engagement, Australia partners with Sri Lanka through the Australia Awards program in South Asia. We expect to welcome 32 students in 2022.
Sri Lanka participates in the New Colombo Plan (NCP). Since 2014, the New Colombo Plan has awarded 934 scholarships and mobility grants for Australian undergraduates to undertake study and work-based experiences in Sri Lanka.
We have strong and enduring people-to-people links, that are extensive across all sectors of society — education, media, culture, literature, science, sport, medicine, politics, commerce and law.
The Sri Lankan diaspora in Australia now exceeds 130,000 individuals. The large Sri Lankan community contributes significantly to strengthening Australia's multicultural society and economy.
Human rights and Reconciliation
Australia is a long-time supporter of Sri Lanka in its reconciliation journey following the 26-year civil conflict that ended in 2009.
Australia actively encourages efforts to strengthen transitional justice, reconciliation and human rights in Sri Lanka. Australian assistance includes economic development in North and East Sri Lanka, technical support through the United Nations for the Office on Missing Persons and the Office for Reparations. Assistance also extends to mine clearance. Australia's commitment to demining contributes to the safe resettlement of displaced communities and increases access to contaminated land for safe, productive use.
Cooperation on transnational crime
Australia and Sri Lanka cooperate closely to counter transnational crime, including people smuggling. Sri Lanka is a member of the Ad Hoc Group of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime which Australia co-chairs.
Australia provided practical support and solidarity to Sri Lanka following the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks. The Australian Federal Police assisted the Sri Lankan Police in investigating the attacks by sharing counter-terrorism, intelligence and forensic resources.
Australia consistently and strongly opposes all forms of terrorism, including terrorist acts by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). On 21 December 2001, the Minister for Foreign Affairs listed the LTTE as a terrorist organisation in accordance with Australia's obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1373 on the prevention and suppression of terrorist acts. The LTTE listing was most recently renewed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2019. Under Australian law, it is a criminal offence to use or deal with assets owned or controlled by the LTTE, or to provide assets to the LTTE, whether directly or indirectly.
Regional and global cooperation
Australia and Sri Lanka work together in a number of regional and multilateral forums to strengthen collective security and prosperity in the region, including as members of the Commonwealth. Australia and Sri Lanka engage through the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) and are active members of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). We also collaborate in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and other ASEAN-led architecture.