Tuvalu country brief
Tuvalu, formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is located midway between Hawaii and Australia in the South Pacific Ocean. It comprises nine islands (four reef islands and five coral atolls). Tuvalu's population is approximately 11,000, with about half living on the atoll of Funafuti, which is the capital.
Tuvalu became independent from the United Kingdom in October 1978. It is a constitutional monarchy with a 15-member unicameral parliament elected every four years. Cabinet consists of the Prime Minister, elected by a majority of the members of parliament, and several ministers. The Prime Minister is the head of government. There are no organised political parties and members usually align with informal groupings. Members of Parliament have very close links with their island constituencies.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State and is currently represented in Tuvalu by Acting Governor-General, Her Excellency, Teniku T. Honolulu.
The Hon. Kausea Natano became Prime Minister in September 2019 after gaining the support of nine Ministers of Parliament in Tuvalu’s 16-seat parliament. The next national elections are scheduled for September 2023.
In the 2018 Budget the Government announced that Australia would open a High Commission in Funafuti, Tuvalu. The new High Commission will strengthen relations with this important partner and key member of the Pacific Islands Forum. It will also help maximise the impact of our aid investments in Tuvalu.
The Foreign Minister officially opened the Australian High Commission in Funafuti, Tuvalu on 7 February 2019. The High Commission will strengthen relations with this important partner and key member of the Pacific Islands Forum. It will also help maximise the impact of our aid investments in Tuvalu.
People to people links
Australia is helping Tuvalu to build a skilled workforce by providing scholarships to students to further their education.
Every year the Australia Awards provide opportunities for around 15 Tuvaluan students to study at tertiary institutions in Australia and the Pacific. The awards enable students to gain the skills and knowledge needed to contribute to their country's development.
Australia Awards focus on areas of importance to Tuvalu's development, including economic and public sector management, commerce, law, education, health, engineering, climate change and the environment.
More information: Australia Awards website
Labour mobility initiatives
The Seasonal Worker Programme, led by the Department of Jobs and Small Business, connects Tuvaluan and other Pacific island workers with Australian employers experiencing labour shortages.
The new Pacific Labour Scheme commenced on 1 July 2018. It enables citizens of Tuvalu and other Pacific island countries to take up low and semi-skilled work opportunities in rural and regional Australia for up to three years. These initiatives allow workers to build their skills and send remittances home to support their families.
The Australian Volunteers program promotes economic growth and poverty reduction in the Indo-Pacific region through capacity building in host organisations to deliver effective and sustainable development outcomes. The program has a one-stop entry point to Australian volunteering. See the Australian Volunteers program page.
Most of Tuvalu's population is involved in subsistence fishing and agriculture. Remittances from seafarers working on overseas vessels are a significant (but declining) source of income for many families. The formal economy is dominated by government activity. Fishing licences and marketing of Tuvalu's internet domain name '.tv' contribute to government revenue.
The Tuvalu Trust Fund
In 1987, the Tuvalu Government established a publicly owned investment fund to provide a safety net against fluctuations in government income. The earnings of the Tuvalu Trust Fund are used to help the government finance the gap between its annual budgeted revenue and expenditure.
The Governments of Australia, New Zealand and the UK have made major contributions to the Tuvalu Trust Fund, with smaller grants coming from Japan and the Republic of Korea. Australia is a member of the Trust Fund Board. Revenue from the Trust Fund has enabled the government to undertake development programs, including upgrading outer island schools and fisheries centres.
Trade and investment
Australian merchandise exports to Tuvalu in 2017 totalled $7.7 million. Australian currency is legal tender in Tuvalu, but Tuvalu also circulates its own coins.
High level visits
August 2019: The Hon Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia visited Tuvalu. The Prime Minister was joined by the Hon. Alex Hawke, Minister for International Development and the Pacific.
February 2019: Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, visited Tuvalu.
July 2015: Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, visited Tuvalu.
March 2012: Then Governor-General, H.E Ms Quentin Bryce visited Tuvalu. She was accompanied by then Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, the Hon. Richard Marles.