Relations with Australia

  • Last updated: 08 May. 2023 08:57

NATO and Australia are strengthening relations to address shared security challenges. Australia made significant contributions to NATO-led efforts in Afghanistan as one of the top non-NATO troop contributors and is active in NATO Mission Iraq as an operational partner.

Photo By: Corporal (CPL) Ricky Fuller  Caption: Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team Leader, Lieutenant Jacob Kleinman discusses the patrol route with Brigadier John Caligari, during a brief halt in a joint Australian and Afghan patrol in Afghanistan.  Mid Caption: Deputy Commander joins his troops on the ground in southern Afghanistan.  There is an old military adage that time spent in reconnaissance is time not wasted and during his recent visit to the 1st Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force (MRTF – 1), Deputy Commander of Australian Forces in Afghanistan, Brigadier John Caligari, took the opportunity to gain a first hand experience of the world in which his soldiers operate.  Having joined the Battle Group on a mission “outside the wire” to participate in the opening of the Australian built Sorkh Morgab Basic Health Centre, the Brigadier joined MRTF – 1 Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Shane Gabriel and the soldiers from one of his Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams on a foot patrol of the surrounding region. The area has seen serious engagements with the Taliban during the eight month deployment of the 1st Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force.  The Brigadier experienced first hand the complex urban and rural environments in which his soldiers have had to operate and the oppressive heat of the Afghan summer. Brigadier Caligari also got to meet the local people who are benefiting from both Australian lines of operation, the mentoring of Afghan soldiers and the reconstruction of much needed infrastructure in the rural province.


  • NATO and Australia have been engaged in dialogue and cooperation since 2005. Australia is one of a range of countries beyond the Euro-Atlantic area, often referred to as “partners across the globe”.
  • In a joint political declaration in June 2012, NATO and Australia signalled their commitment to strengthening cooperation.
  • Since 2013, work continues to advance the relationship through an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme. This agreement was renewed in 2019.
  • Australia supported NATO-led defence capacity-building efforts in Afghanistan through the Afghan National Army Trust Fund, and contributed to the Resolute Support Mission. It also participates in NATO Mission Iraq. Priorities in NATO-Australia relations include: upholding the international rules-based order, promoting mutual understanding of global security issues, enhancing interoperability between NATO and Australia, and engaging on issues of common interest, including cyber defence, hybrid threats and resilience.
  • Cooperation is underpinned by regular high-level political dialogue, including an annual bilateral Strategic Dialogue. Australia is an Enhanced Opportunities Partner, alongside Georgia, Jordan, Sweden and Ukraine.


Key areas of cooperation

Australia’s cooperation with NATO is mutually beneficial and includes:

Building capabilities and interoperability

  • Since 2014 under the Partnership Interoperability Initiative, Australia has been participating in the Interoperability Platform, which brings Allies together with selected partners that are active contributors to NATO’s operations. Australia is also one of five countries that have enhanced opportunities for dialogue and cooperation with the Allies (known as ‘Enhanced Opportunities Partners’) in recognition of their particularly significant contributions to NATO operations and other Alliance objectives.
  • To deepen interoperability, Australia participates in committee work on issues such as logistics, information-sharing among operational partners, aviation, codification and armaments cooperation, where Australia works with NATO on capability development in the land, maritime and air domains.
  • Australia is also regularly involved in NATO military exercises open to partners. 

Support for NATO-led operations and missions

  • Over almost a decade, Australia was one of the largest non-NATO troop contributors to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which completed its mission in 2014. As part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Uruzgan Province in southern Afghanistan, Australian personnel provided security and delivered reconstruction and community-based projects. Additionally, Australia’s Special Operations Task Group operated in direct support of ISAF elements in Uruzgan Province. From 2015 until spring 2021, Australia supported NATO’s follow-on Resolute Support Mission (RSM) to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions. Australia was also a leading contributor to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund, having donated USD 680 million to the fund.
  • Both NATO and Australia are members of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Australia also participates as one of the operational partners in NATO Mission Iraq, a non-combat advisory and training mission launched in July 2018 that aims to strengthen Iraqi security institutions and forces so that they are able to prevent the return of ISIS, fight terrorism and stabilise their country.
  • Australia and NATO also work together to strengthen maritime security. Australia is a potential operational partner for NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian. In the past, the Australian navy also cooperated with NATO to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia as part of the past operation Ocean Shield.

Wider cooperation

  • In the framework of NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme, leading areas of practical cooperation with Australia include advanced technology and energy security. Notably, experts from Australia are participating in a top-down project aiming to increase energy efficiency in deployable camps and reduce fossil fuels’ consumption.
  • Australia contributed to a number of Trust Fund projects, including a NATO Trust Fund project designed to clear unexploded ordnance in Saloglu, Azerbaijan (2010) and the Ukraine Medical Rehabilitation Trust Fund.
  • For the first time, in December 2020, Australia participated in a NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting, together with Japan, then-partner Finland (now a member), the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Sweden and the European Union High Representative/ Vice President of the European Commission, to discuss the shift in the global balance of power and the rise of China. This was only one of the latest and more visible political exchanges NATO has had with Australia at various levels in recent years. The NATO Secretary General travelled to Australia in August 2019.
  • At the NATO Brussels Summit in June 2021, Allies agreed to increase dialogue and practical cooperation between NATO and existing partners, including Australia as one of the partners in the Indo-Pacific region.