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The Colombo Plan, launched in 1951, was an intergovernmental program designed to strengthen relationships within Asia and the Pacific and promote partnerships of mutual help towards social and economic development in the member countries. Its headquarters were situated in Colombo, the capital of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The original signatories were Australia, Canada, Ceylon, New Zealand, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Malaya and North Borneo. In later years program membership expanded to 25 countries in total. Programs focussed on training and education, health and the provision of food supplies, equipment and financial loans. The goal was to not only build the developing countries’ physical capital (including technology and infrastructure such as hospitals, roads and schools) but also to raise peoples’ skill levels so they could effectively utilise resources and deliver services in areas such as health, education and public administration. The Australian government, amongst other contributions to the Colombo Plan, offered scholarships and other assistance for students from member countries to study and gain practical training in Australia. By the 1980s over 20,000 students had the opportunity to study in Australia in their field, with the intention that they would assist their home countries’ technological, economic, social and political development. While students had to return home after their studies were complete, a number later migrated permanently to Australia under skilled migration programs. This selection of photographs of Colombo Plan students illustrates some of their experiences as they studied and participated in leisure activities.

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