Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Australia are good and becoming even stronger. Australia is home to one of the largest Swiss communities abroad and a hub for education and research. Switzerland is an important investor in Australia.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Australia
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
In 2013, Switzerland and Australia signed a Declaration of Intent on a Strategic Dialogue. Since then, regular dialogue on policy issues has taken place between the foreign ministries of the two countries and at ministerial level.
Australia and Switzerland regularly cooperate in multilateral forums, including on multilateral issues, peacekeeping, security policy, international law and development.
Both countries are interested in constantly improving the already excellent conditions for bilateral trade and investment.
Australia is a member of the G20 and an important economic partner. Switzerland primarily exports pharmaceuticals and chemicals, precision instruments and machinery to Australia and mainly imports precious metals, but also agricultural and pharmaceutical products.
The constantly growing services sector brings opportunities for media and telecommunications companies, financial services undertakings, science and technology-based companies and construction companies. Switzerland also increasingly exports intellectual property, including patents, copyright, trade marks, industrial processes and franchises.
The Swiss-Australian Chamber of Commerce (SwissCham) has over 200 active members in Australia. The stability of the Australian economy, the huge demand for infrastructure investment and growing demand for innovative products and services all present opportunities for Swiss companies.
Cooperation in the domain of education
Australia is an important academic and scientific hub for Switzerland. Bilateral exchange has been stepped up, with regular meetings and an improved collaborative framework. The Swiss Australian Academic Network (SAAN) facilitates exchanges between Swiss and Australian academics.
Australian researchers are eligible to apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships. A trainee exchange agreement enables young people from Australia to acquire additional professional experience and hone their language skills in Switzerland. ThinkSwiss scholarships are available for Australian students to undertake research at a Swiss university.
Switzerland and Australia cooperate closely in the field of Antarctic research. In 2020, Switzerland and Australia signed a Statement of Commitment for increased cooperation on Antarctic research.
Swiss nationals in Australia
At the end of 2020, there were more than 26,000 Swiss nationals resident in Australia. Australia is home to the largest Swiss community overseas, after the US and Canada.
Despite the distance, Switzerland and Australia have close cultural ties. Artists' exchanges have increased and exhibitions, concerts and dance performances are regularly held.
History of bilateral relations
The Swiss began to arrive in Australia just a few years after the founding of the first settlement in the Sydney area in 1788. The first major wave of Swiss immigrants started in 1839 when Charles Joseph La Trobe was appointed Superintendant and subsequently Lieutenant Governor of Victoria. He had married a Swiss woman, Sophie de Montmollin, who accompanied him to Australia. Through his contacts many wine growers from the Neuchâtel region and the Bernese Three Lakes Region began to emigrate, helping to make Victoria an important wine growing region. During the 19th century gold rush some 2,000 prospectors emigrated to Australia from the canton of Ticino.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Australia became more attractive to traders and artisans from German-speaking Switzerland In the second half of the 20th century emigration was at a more individual level. Many of the new arrivals settled in Sydney and Melbourne.
Switzerland opened a consulate in Sydney in 1855 and the following year in Melbourne. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were initiated in 1961, when Switzerland opened an embassy in Australia.
The Australian embassy in Berlin is also accredited to Switzerland. The Australian Consulate General is located in Geneva. In 2012 an honorary consulate was established in Zurich.