Tuvalu, formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is located midway between Hawaii and Australia in the South Pacific Ocean. It comprises nine islands (four reef islands and five coral atolls). Tuvalu's population is approximately 11,000, with about half living on the atoll of Funafuti, which is the capital.
Tuvalu became independent from the United Kingdom in October 1978. It is a constitutional monarchy with a 15-member unicameral parliament elected every four years. Cabinet consists of the Prime Minister, elected by a majority of the members of parliament, and several ministers. The Prime Minister is the head of government. There are no organised political parties and members usually align with informal groupings. MPs have very close links with their island constituencies and effort is directed towards balancing island representation in Cabinet.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State and is represented in Tuvalu by a Governor-General, currently the Hon Sir Iakoba Taeia Italei. Tuvalu's last national elections were held on 16 September 2010. On 2 August 2013, Enele Sopoaga was elected Prime Minister following a parliamentary motion of no confidence in the previous government, led by Willy Telavi. Prime Minister Sopoaga and his new cabinet of seven were sworn in on 5 August 2013. Enele Sopaga was re-elected in March 2015.
More information on development assistance to Tuvalu.
People to people links
Australia is helping Tuvalu to build a skilled workforce by providing scholarships to students to further their education.
Every year the Australia Awards provide opportunities for around 20 Tuvaluan students to study at tertiary institutions in Australia and the Pacific. The awards enable students to gain the skills and knowledge needed to contribute to their country’s development.
Australia Awards focus on areas of importance to Tuvalu’s development, including economic and public sector management, commerce, law, education, health, engineering, climate change and the environment.
Tuvalu will participate in a new five-year Pacific Microstates – Northern Australia Pilot Worker Program. This program will provide up to 250 multiyear visas for citizens of Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru. Tuvalu also participates in the Seasonal Worker Programme, where seasonal horticultural workers from Pacific countries are recruited by horticultural enterprises in Australia to meet their seasonal harvest needs. These initiatives enable workers to build their skills and send remittances home to support their families.
Most of Tuvalu's population is involved in subsistence fishing and agriculture. Remittances from seafarers working on overseas vessels are a significant (if declining) source of income for many families. The money economy is dominated by government activity. Fishing licences and marketing of Tuvalu's internet domain name '.tv' contribute to government revenue.
The Tuvalu Trust Fund
In 1987, the Tuvalu Government established a publicly owned investment fund to provide a safety net against fluctuations in government income. The earnings of the Tuvalu Trust Fund are used to help the government finance the gap between its annual budgeted revenue and expenditure.
The Governments of Australia, New Zealand and the UK have made major contributions to the Tuvalu Trust Fund, with smaller grants coming from Japan and the Republic of Korea. Australia is a member of the Trust Fund Board. Revenue from the Trust Fund has enabled the government to undertake development programs, including upgrading outer island schools and fisheries centres.
Trade and investment
Australian merchandise exports to Tuvalu in 2014-15 totalled $5.2 million. Australian currency is legal tender in Tuvalu, but Tuvalu also circulates its own coins.
High level visits
March 2012: Then Governor-General, H.E Ms Quentin Bryce visited Tuvalu. She was accompanied by then Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, the Hon. Richard Marles.