Last updated in April 2017

Political relations

Germany plays an important role in Australia’s international relations, although the country’s bilateral foreign policy focuses on the Asia-Pacific region – specifically, the close political and military alliance with the United States; extensive economic ties with four of its major export markets, China, Japan, South Korea and India; a relationship of growing political importance with its ten times more populous northern neighbour Indonesia; the very close relationship with New Zealand and the Pacific island states.

Australia is, however, aware of the fact that not only its European roots but also, and above all, its key interests and values make it a member of the Western family of nations. For Australia, this means that Europe – and Germany with its key role in the European Union and the eurozone – continue to be important partners.

In 2012, Germany and Australia celebrated an important milestone in their shared history: the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. During a bilateral visit to Germany by the then Australian Foreign Minister Robert (Bob) Carr in January 2013, the Berlin-Canberra Declaration of Intent on a Strategic Partnership was signed.

Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel last visited Australia in November 2014. During her meeting with then Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the two Heads of Government established a high-level Australia-Germany Advisory Group, which over a period of a year developed 59 recommendations for further strengthening German-Australian relations. In December 2016 and February 2017, the co-chairs of the Advisory Group, German Minister of State Maria Böhmer and Australian Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann, submitted a progress report to both Governments on the implementation of these recommendations.

Economic relations

Germany is Australia’s second-largest European trading partner after the United Kingdom and its ninth-largest trading partner worldwide. In 2015, bilateral trade in goods was worth over 10 billion euros. However, Australia has for many years run a large trade deficit with Germany, with German exports exceeding imports from Australia many times over. The reasons for this trade deficit are largely structural: Germany mainly exports high-quality final products to Australia, while importing raw materials and primary products (coins, precious metals, agricultural products) from there. In 2015, imports from Australia were worth approximately 1.5 billion euros and goods exports to Australia approximately 8.9 billion euros.

Germany’s main exports to Australia are motor vehicles and vehicle parts, chemical and pharmaceutical products, electrical goods and machinery. Australia’s main exports to Germany are gold and other precious metals, coins and agricultural products (especially oilseed).

There are more than 480 subsidiaries of German companies, with as many as 800 branch offices, operating in Australia and providing – directly or indirectly – over 100,000 jobs.

German industry is represented in Australia by the German-Australian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, which has offices in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as a new Queensland Chapter in Brisbane. The Australian trade and investment development agency Austrade is affiliated in Germany to the Australian Consulate General in Frankfurt am Main. In November 2016, a so-called Landing Pad for Australian start-ups was opened in Berlin’s Betahaus co-working space, with support from Austrade and the Australian Embassy. It is the only Australian Landing Pad in Europe (there are others in San Francisco, Tel Aviv, Singapore and Shanghai).

Cultural relations

Australia and Germany have a long tradition of close cultural ties. Germans were among the first European settlers in Australia and made major contributions to the exploration and development of the “fifth continent”. In regions with a large number of German immigrants, such as the Barossa Valley in South Australia, there is today a re-emerging awareness of this heritage. Numerous German associations (mainly choral societies and rifle clubs) can be found throughout the country.

German scientists and researchers also played a significant role in Australia’s discovery and exploration. Figures still remembered today in Australia include the explorer and naturalist Ludwig Leichhardt, the botanist Ferdinand von Mueller and the geophysicist and polar explorer Georg von Neumayer. 

In Australia, there is a Goethe-Institut in both Sydney and Melbourne as well as two German schools and several Saturday schools. While the long-established German International School Sydney has been awarding the International Baccalaureate – recognised in both Australia and Germany – since as early as 2002, the Deutsche Schule Melbourne opened in January 2008 as a primary school and now has approximately 100 pupils enrolled in bilingual classes.

There are some 90,000 learners of German at Australian schools (approximately one percent of all students). Among final-year pupils, German is – after French – the most popular European foreign language, though there is now a general trend towards learning Asian languages.

Particularly intensive relations are maintained at university level. The number of partnerships between German and Australian higher education institutions has risen to over 550 within the past ten years, making Germany the fourth largest cooperation partner of Australian universities worldwide, after China, the United States and Japan. The lively exchange between universities and scientists and academics on both sides is promoted by Germany through scholarship programmes, especially those of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). To this end, the DAAD runs its own Information Centre in Sydney, thus providing a first point of contact for anyone interested in studying or pursuing research in Germany. The Institut Ranke-Heinemann in Essen and Berlin represents Australia’s and New Zealand’s universities, schools and vocational academies in Germany. The Institut Ranke-Heinemann and the organisation GOstralia!-GOzealand! advise and assist on all questions relating to studying in Australia.

The high-level Australia-Germany Advisory Group has given further impetus to the already excellent bilateral relations in the cultural sector. A Year of Australia in Germany – under the motto “Australia now” – is being held in 2017, organised by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Germany is also currently a priority country under Australia’s Catalyst International and Cultural Diplomacy Stream. Following a recommendation by the Advisory Group, a major cultural highlight of 2017 will be a joint gala opera performance by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and Saarbrücken’s Saarländisches Staatstheater in July.Disclaimer:This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.


This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.

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