Vanuatu country brief
Stepping-up in Vanuatu: Australia and Vanuatu have a strong and enduring bilateral relationship, based on shared values and interests in a prosperous and stable region.
Australia established a presence in Vanuatu in 1978 and championed the case for Vanuatu's independence in the United Nations and Pacific Forums in the lead up to independence in 1980. Australia opened a Consulate in 1978, followed by a High Commission in Port Vila in 1980 and in 2020 we celebrate 40 years of close diplomatic relations. Australia and Vanuatu enjoy a very broad range of links at government, business and community levels. Australia's engagement aligns with Vanuatu's National Sustainable Development Plan 2030 and Australia's 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper and Pacific Step-up. Australia is proud to be Vanuatu's largest bilateral aid donor and closest security partner.
Vanuatu is an archipelagic nation of 83 islands, extending over 1000 kilometres in a north-south direction between the equator and the tropic of Capricorn. It lies some 2000 kilometres to the northeast of Brisbane in the Coral Sea, at similar latitude to Cairns in North Queensland. The population of Vanuatu is approximately 299,882 (2019). Port Vila, on the island of Efate, is the capital. Formerly known as the New Hebrides, Vanuatu was jointly governed by British and French administrations before attaining independence.
Vanuatu has a unicameral 52-member parliament, elected to a four-year term by universal adult suffrage. The president of the republic (constitutional head of state) is elected for a five-year term through secret ballot by an electoral college comprising members of parliament and the presidents of Vanuatu's six provincial governments. The current President, His Excellency Obed Moses Tallis, was elected for a five year term on 6 July 2017. The Prime Minister is elected by parliament from among its members by secret ballot. Following national elections on 19-20 March 2020, the parliament elected the Hon Bob Loughman Weibur, Prime Minister of Vanuatu on 20 April 2020.
High level visits
- October 2019: The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, returned to Vanuatu for further meetings with the Government of Vanuatu and also to visit Luganville, on the island of Santo.
- August 2019: The then Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Alex Hawke MP visited for the Pacific Wastewater Ministers meeting.
- February 2019: The Assistant Minister for Trade Tourism and Investment, the Hon Mark Coulton MP, visited Vanuatu to attend the Australia-Vanuatu Business Forum.
- February 2019: The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, visited Vanuatu for meetings with the Government of Vanuatu.
- January 2019: Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the first bilateral visit to Vanuatu by an Australian Prime Minister, accompanied by the then Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston.
- June 2019: The then Hon Charlot Salwai MP, Prime Minister of Vanuatu visited Australia as a guest of the Australian Government.
- April 2018: The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, accompanied His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales on his visit Vanuatu, as part of His Royal Highness' Australian Tour.
- August 2017: The then Ambassador for Women and Girls, Sharman Stone, visited Vanuatu to attend the Pacific Women's Advisory Board Meeting.
- July 2017: The then Governor-General, the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), visited Vanuatu (Port Vila) for the late President, His Excellency Reverend Womtelo Baldwin Lonsdale's funeral.
- December 2016: A bipartisan delegation visited Vanuatu. The delegation comprised the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, then Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Senator Claire Moore, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific.