The diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella, is renowned for developing resistance to insecticides and causing significant economic damage to Brassica vegetable crops throughout the world. Yet despite its economic importance, little is known about the population structure and movement patterns of this pest both at local and regional scales. In Australia, the movement patterns and insecticide resistance status of P. xylostella infesting canola, vegetables, forage brassicas and weeds have fundamental implications for the management of this pest. Here we use six polymorphic microsatellite loci to investigate population structure and gene flow in Australian populations of P. xylostella. Samples of P. xylostella from New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Kenya were also scored at these loci. We found no evidence of population structure within Australia, with most populations having low inbreeding coefficients and in Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium. In addition, a sample from the North Island of New Zealand was indistinguishable from the Australian samples. However, large genetic differences were found between the Australia/New Zealand samples and samples from Kenya, Malaysia and Indonesia. There was no relationship between genetic distance and geographic distance among Australian and New Zealand samples. Two of the loci were found to have null alleles, the frequency of which was increased in the populations outside the Australia/New Zealand region. We discuss these results with reference to insecticide resistance management strategies for P. xylostella in Australia.