Honae Cuffe, “The Colombo Plan and Australian Attempts to Preserve Commonwealth Influence in Southeast Asia”

Sacha Davis's picture
March 25, 2022
Subject Fields: 
Australian and New Zealand History / Studies, Diplomacy and International Relations, Southeast Asian History / Studies

The Historical, Cultural and Critical Inquiry Group at the University of Newcastle (Australia) is pleased to announce the second paper in our 2022 seminar series, on Friday 25 March 2022 from 10-11am Australian Eastern Daylight Time (GMT+11). A Zoom link is below. Our presenter is:


Honae Cuffe (ANU), “The Colombo Plan and Australian Attempts to Preserve Commonwealth Influence in Southeast Asia


In January 1950, a Commonwealth Foreign Ministers’ Conference was held in Colombo to discuss the implications of the communist victory in China. Representing Australia was the new Minister for External Affairs, Percy Spender. Spender hoped to transform tentative plans for Southeast Asian economic assistance into a concrete Commonwealth-led program. The conference was an ideal platform to achieve this, and the resulting program was the Colombo Plan for Economic Development in Southeast Asia. 

As an anti-communist program, the Colombo Plan tends to be seen as a strategic solution to Asia’s sudden entrance into the Cold War. Certainly, this was a priority, however, it was not the only motivating factor for Australia. This paper expands the historical understanding of the Colombo Plan by considering against the backdrop of the dollar crisis, US competition, and Australia’s hope to preserve Commonwealth presence in Southeast Asia in the interest of its economic and strategic capabilities. 


Dr Honae Cuffe is a Research Officer at the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) at The Australian National University. Honae holds a PhD in History from the University of Newcastle and has published on issues of history, contemporary policy, and research practices at the nexus of the public service and academia. Defining and Defending Australia’s National Interest in the Asia-Pacific, 1921–1957 (2021, ANU Press) is her first book.


Zoom meeting ID: 870 4036 3272 (Open from 9:45am)
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Contact Info: 

Dr Sacha Davis
The University of Newcastle
University Drive, Callaghan NSW 2308 Australia