Western Australia: Bridging the Indian Ocean divide

Kate Longhurst, Director, DFAT WA State Office

5 September 2019

Western Australia, with its Indian Ocean coastline and outlook, plays a central role in Australia’s engagement with Africa, with mining a key focus. The state accounts for over 70 per cent of Australian investment in the African mining sector and WA’s exports to Africa (mostly in the Mining, Engineering and Technology Services sector) were worth $1.4 billion in 2016-17.

WA’s world-leading mining expertise has contributed to capacity building among African mining employees and officials. As part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between WA and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa; WA’s Department of Mines, Industry Safety and Regulation, in partnership with DFAT, has delivered extractive industries policy workshops in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. WA’s best-practice mining and safety regulations have formed the basis of reformed mining codes across Africa – Burkina Faso’s mining code draws directly from WA’s laws.

WA’s engagement with Africa extends beyond mining. Perth is home to the annual Australia-Africa Week (see page 20), which draws in the mining, oil and gas, infrastructure, education and agricultural sectors. The not-for-profit sector works with a range of charities around the African continent and WA’s Health Department annually deploys graduating nurses to Tanzania for training. This valuable exchange program enables WA nurses to share their expertise and learn firsthand from counterparts in rural Tanzanian clinics about the challenges of delivering medical care in remote environments – a common challenge in Western Australia and many African countries.

Indian Ocean education partnerships are particularly important for Western Australia. In 2018, Curtin University opened its first African campus in Mauritius. Longer term, Curtin sees this campus as a gateway for East and Southern African students to study in Perth. The University of Western Australia established the Australia Africa Research Engagement Centre in 2018. The Centre is building links with African universities, diaspora and business, and is leading wide-ranging research on mining, trade and agriculture in Africa.

Further information on these initiatives can be found at:



Last Updated: 5 September 2019

Kate Longhurst

Kate Longhurst