Relations with Australia started in the 19th century when the Malays participated in the pearling industry off Australia's north coast - close to Darwin. Historically, William Light, the son of Francis Light (who acquired Penang on behalf of the British East India Company in 1786), planned the city of Adelaide in 1837. Today, Georgetown in Penang and Adelaide in South Australia is linked as sister cities.
Australian troops have fought on a number of occasions alongside Malaysians. This included during the Malayan Campaign of World War II, as part of a Commonwealth force to defeat the Malayan Communist insurgency during the Malayan Emergency (1950-60) and during the period of Confrontation with Indonesia (1963-66).
Australia was closely associated with the establishment of the Federation of Malaya in 1957 and sponsored Malaya's application for membership of the United Nations. Sir William McKell, a former Governor-General of Australia, together with four other Commonwealth jurists, helped draft the nation's Constitution. Australia also took a close and positive interest in the formation of Malaysia.
Australia's formal relations with Malaysia date back to 1955 when the Australian Commission (later High Commission) was established in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia established its High Commission in Canberra in 1956. Australia was one of fifteen countries to establish formal diplomatic relations with the Federation of Malaya in 1957 soon after independence.
Malaysia and Australia have a strong, modern and diverse bilateral relationship, with active and cooperative relations across a broad range of sectors. These include trade and investment, education, defence, counter-terrorism, law enforcement and tourism. More recently, cooperation has expanded into new areas including countering people smuggling, sport and joint programs in third countries.
On 22 November 2015, the bilateral relations were elevated to a Strategic Partnership. This was officially announced through the issuance of a Joint Declaration of Strategic Partnership during the Working Visit of the Honourable Malcolm Turnbull, then Australian Prime Minister, to Malaysia on 21-22 November 2015 (at the margins of the 27th ASEAN Summit).
The Partnership was further elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership on 27 January 2021. The elevation of the Malaysia-Australia partnership is very significant and historic, representing another milestone in the diplomatic relations between both countries. It reflects a genuine commitment to advancing and consolidating further the already extensive and multi-faceted cooperation bilaterally and at the multilateral level. In addition to consolidating further the existing cooperation, the CSP positions Malaysia and Australia to concretise collaboration in new areas such as digital economy; agriculture and food security; disaster and public health emergencies; mental health; science technology and innovation and environment; and youth empowerment among others. The CSP is also timely as both countries continue to address the evolving regional and global complexities and enable the two partners to navigate the new landscape and stay ahead of the curve.