EASSC Publications


From Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific: evaluating Australia’s changing terminology

Date of this Version


Document Type

Conference Paper


In the 2017 Australian Foreign Policy White Paper, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reinforced the shift already taken in earlier White Papers to widen Australian terminology for our regional outlook. By using the term ‘Indo-Pacific’, the White Paper sought to move away from the more restrictive term of ‘Asia-Pacific’ when referring to our neighbouring region. This change in terminology is a positive development as it more accurately reflects Australia’s geographic positioning, with its eastern seaboard located on the Pacific Ocean and its western seaboard located on the Indian Ocean. For Western Australia in particular, such a change in terminology was a welcome acknowledgement of their geographic reality and positioning. Indeed, the previous Asia-Pacific concept has sometimes risked Western Australia being overshadowed by the focus on the eastern seaboard’s proximity to Asian-Pacific states via the Pacific Ocean. The Indo-Pacific shift also comes at a time when a Western Australian parliamentarian is the Minister for Foreign Affairs, hence the push for recognition of the importance of the Indian Ocean to Australia should not be a huge surprise. However, the contents of the White Paper and the change in terminology have been met with some caution and concern by Beijing. This paper analyses the shift in terminology and argues that the Indo-Pacific terminology, and the Indo-Pacific concept, are not new. Instead, it argues that this change in terminology is a more inclusive and encompassing approach to Australia’s outlook, both domestically and internationally.

Journal, Book or Conference Title

East Asia Security Symposium and Conference 东亚安全座谈谈论会

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This document has been peer reviewed.