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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Annual Report 2000-2001
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Output 3.1
Public information services and public diplomacy

Output 3.1 Effectiveness Indicators

3.1.2: Projecting a positive image of Australia internationally

Effectiveness indicators

3.1.3: Olympics

Effectiveness indicators

3.1.4: Freedom of Information and archival research and clearance

Effectiveness indicators

Projecting a positive image of Australia internationally

The department coordinated a wide-ranging public diplomacy program Click to view related information - opens in new window to project a positive image of Australia internationally. Key elements included:

The department delivered a cultural diplomacy agenda through a range of projects under the auspices of the Australia International Cultural Council Click to view related information - opens in new window. This included a ‘roadshow’ of recent Australian films, which began touring posts in March. We also coordinated a process to select a provider for a television service to the Asia-Pacific region, which resulted in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation being selected by the Government (see also page 177).

The department monitored international media coverage of Australia, particularly during the lead-up to the Sydney Olympic Games. Targeted material and talking points were prepared to respond to specific issues and more general material was prepared to respond to broader issues. This enabled overseas posts to respond quickly and effectively to media inquiries, whether directly or through departmental websites. The result was more balanced and positive international reporting on the organisation of the Olympic Games and on broader issues such as the economy, tourism and multiculturalism. While there was some negative coverage of Indigenous issues, there were also many balanced reports on the strong ‘reconciliation’ message of the Games.

International media, special visits and cultural awards

The department’s International Media Visits program generated accurate and comprehensive media coverage in support of Australian foreign and trade policy objectives through targeted working visits by groups of international media representatives.

Twenty-six foreign media representatives visited Australia under this program in 2000–01, in three separate groups. Each group visit focused on a theme drawn from Australia’s foreign and trade policy priorities. The first group focused on the capabilities and innovations behind the successful staging of the Sydney Olympic Games and the business and investment climate in Australia after the Olympics. Subsequent groups examined information and communications technology, e-commerce, biotechnology, telecommunications infrastructure and Australia’s trade policy position in the lead-up to the launch of the next round of negotiations of the WTO.

The department facilitated fewer visits than in previous years—a result of our focus on servicing the large number of media representatives visiting Sydney during the Olympics. We resumed a full program of group media visits from the beginning of 2001.

The department’s International Media Centre in Sydney provided resident and visiting foreign media with logistical advice and support, background information, story ideas, contacts, research tools and access to various facilities. The centre organised 20 functions on foreign and trade policy issues for international and domestic media representatives. During the period from July to October 2000, it played a key role in Olympics-related briefings and events.

The Special Visits Program (SVP) played an important role in supporting the department’s core function of advocating Australia’s interests overseas through establishing valuable long-term networks and personal contacts. The SVP is aimed at influential or potentially influential individuals who can contribute to a greater understanding of Australia’s policies and institutions, and who are likely to be in positions which deal with issues of direct relevance to Australia’s foreign and trade policy interests. Special Visitors Programs organised included:

As a result of the Australian International Cultural Council’s Strategy for the Coordination and Promotion of Australian Cultural Activity Overseas Click to view related information - opens in new window, 24 individuals from 13 countries or territories visited Australia under the auspices of the department’s Cultural Awards Scheme. Participants included arts media representatives, festival directors, venue managers and opinion makers. Individual programs were tailored to ensure maximum exposure for Australian arts and cultural products and to strengthen links to important overseas markets.

Promotion of Australian culture

The department’s overseas missions provided financial and in-kind support for 1,386 Australian artists, performances, festivals and exhibitions around the world. More than 1.6 million patrons, many representing foreign governments, business or media, attended these public diplomacy activities.

Indigenous Australian culture

We continued to promote and showcase the rich diversity of Australia’s Indigenous arts and cultures, including through our travelling exhibitions of Aboriginal art—Seasons of the Kunwinjku and Prints by Seven Aboriginal Australian Artists. The New Directions—Aboriginal Australia and Business exhibition, developed jointly with Rio Tinto, focused on positive examples of business links between Indigenous Australians and sections of the mining industry. It completed a successful two-year tour to Asia and Europe, with a final exhibition in London as part of the Commonwealth Institute’s celebration of Australia’s Centenary of Federation.

In a partnership between the department and the Australian Film Commission, a major program of over 40 Australian Indigenous films was curated and shown at Ethnofilmfest 2001—one of Europe’s most prestigious ethnographic film festivals. Ethnofilmfest dedicated 10 days to Australian Indigenous films. The films were also shown in Munich and Frankfurt.

Through our Australia 2000 initiative, we supported a range of indigenous activities directed at international media covering the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. We also worked with relevant departments and agencies to prepare and distribute fact sheets on indigenous issues to overseas posts and media representatives in the lead-up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Following the Olympics, these have been added to the department’s consolidated fact sheets, providing a valuable source of accurate information on indigenous issues for international audiences.

Australia—Our Sporting Life exhibition Click to view related information - opens in new window

The Australia—Our Sporting Life exhibition was an important platform for the department’s public diplomacy efforts against the background of the Olympic Games. The exhibition, which incorporated photographic, audio-visual and interactive segments, promoted Australia’s involvement in sport and the capacity of the Australian sports industry. After a two-year international touring program in 15 major markets and an estimated 1.5 million visitors overseas, the exhibition’s Olympic season was launched by Mr Downer on 21 August 2000 at the National Maritime Museum in Sydney.

Australia International Cultural Council Click to view related information - opens in new window

The department implemented the Australia International Cultural Council’s (AICC) Strategy for the Coordination and Promotion of Australian Cultural Activity Overseas, including through our work at World Expo 2000 in Hanover (boxed text below), the Olympics Arts Festivals and international Centenary of Federation celebrations. As chair of the Commission for International Cultural Promotion, which implements the AICC’s strategy, we improved inter-agency coordination and progressed a program of activities to promote Australian culture internationally. This work was reflected in AICC projects such as preparations for the month-long program of Australian arts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music New Wave Festival in New York in October 2001.

The department undertook a joint AICC project with the Australian Film Commission to produce a film festival package of recent Australian feature films, Embassy Roadshow. Mr Downer launched the package in December 2000. Since March 2001, film festivals held monthly in various locations around the world have screened the films to extensive local media coverage and appreciative, near-capacity audiences. For example, over 2,000 people attended the Embassy Roadshow in Bangkok in June 2001 and, as a result, several local cinema companies have expressed interest in securing screening rights for Australian films and hosting future Australian film festivals.

Another AICC initiative involved the hosting by the department of 129 international dignitaries to performances by Australian artists at the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival during the Olympic Games. This program impressed influential international visitors with the quality, diversity and vibrancy of the Australian arts community.

Centenary of Federation Click to view external web site - opens in new window

The department used the Centenary of Federation to promote Australia internationally by highlighting our significant achievements over the past 100 years. Posts used the Centenary to promote Australia in a variety of ways, and some key overseas posts received funding from the National Council for the Centenary of Federation, for major projects. A collaboration between the Council, the Australia Council and the High Commission in London resulted in the highly successful ‘Australia Week’ in July 2000 in the United Kingdom, which comprised a series of major commemorative events and a program of contemporary Australian arts, HeadsUP Australian Arts 100. Posts also provided considerable support to the London to Sydney Air Race 2001, which passed through 15 countries on the former ‘Kangaroo Route’.

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Expo 2000 in Hanover

The department managed the Australian pavilion at World Expo 2000 in Hanover from 1 June until 31 October 2000, working closely with Austrade, the Australian Tourist Commission and a number of State and Territory Governments, particularly the Queensland Government (see also administered item). Our approach combined image projection and tourism promotion with a trade and investment development agenda.

The Australian pavilion attracted over 3.5 million visitors, or about one in five public visitors to Expo—a record for any Australian pavilion at an Expo. Over $2.5 million of Australian-made merchandise was sold in the Pavilion shop. A program of targeted industry seminars generated very high levels of German business interest, particularly in environmental and energy technology, automotive industry, education and food and beverage.

Feedback from visitors, including to the business seminars, confirmed that the pavilion successfully expanded public perceptions of Australia beyond the traditional images to include a better appreciation of the technological innovation and sophistication of Australian industry, science and the arts. This was intensified by the attention focused on Australia during the Olympics, broadcasts of which were played on a giant screen mounted on the main façade of the pavilion.

The arts program, which featured a wide range of performing artists and video imagery, was acclaimed by visitors and the Expo organisers as one of the most innovative and interesting on site.


Australia and Asia: people-to-people links

The Australia–China Council (ACC) Click to view related information - opens in new window awarded six outstanding young Australian graduates its inaugural Young Business Scholars in China scholarships at a function organised by the Australia–China Business Council in Melbourne in June 2001. The scholars will study a six-month course at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing from September 2001. The ACC aims to equip these scholars, who all speak Mandarin, with skills and work experience in China that will enhance their prospects of a career in Australia–China business relations. The ACC is working closely with the Australian business community in Beijing to ensure the scheme’s success.

The ACC, for the first time, offered a Beijing residency award in 2001. The ready-to-use apartment provides a base for Australians in China to develop projects related to China and encourages ongoing contact between Australians and Chinese in fields that will enhance the relationship, such as the arts, scholarship and business. Difficulty in finding suitable furnished accommodation at reasonable cost has hindered many Australians wishing to undertake projects in China.

In October 2000, the ACC sponsored the 7th Biennial International Conference of Australian Studies in China. ACC members delivered papers on topics ranging from public art in Australia to electronic delivery of education and Australia’s links with China at the time of Federation in 1901. The quality and quantity of the papers delivered by the Chinese students and academics demonstrated how Australian Studies had diversified in recent years from the study of Australian literature to economic, gender, and social issues, globalisation and Australia’s strategic place in the region. The Council currently sponsors 11 Australian Study Centres across China, a network that has increased awareness of Australia in China. Changes to the funding arrangements will allow the Council to increase the number of centres having access to Council funds.

The Australia–India Council (AIC) Click to view related information - opens in new window supported a wide range of projects in Australia and India, promoting bilateral contact and understanding as well as helping to expand links in commerce, health and social issues, environment, education, the arts, law and governance, sport, and news media and film. Major new projects supported by the AIC included disaster management, sustainable mining and water resource management, teacher and journalist exchanges and activities in competition policy, aquaculture farming development, early childhood education and community health and paediatric HIV health care.

The AIC’s activities generated considerable favourable publicity and feedback, contributed to wider recognition in India of Australian capabilities, and assisted Australian access to key sectors of India’s economy. The AIC’s role in supporting "second-track" activities complemented and supported the Government’s broader objective of enhancing bilateral relations with India.

The Australia–Indonesia Institute (AII) Click to view related information - opens in new window supported a large number of projects designed to expand broad-based community links with Indonesia. The annual youth exchange program provided for extended visits in both directions by young Australians and Indonesians. The AII also supported a teacher exchange program with Indonesia. The program, now in its second year, helped Australian and Indonesian primary and secondary teachers and teacher educators develop expertise and school curriculum materials about each other’s culture and society.

The Australia–Korea Foundation (AKF) Click to view related information - opens in new window generated favourable publicity in Korea by sponsoring the Janganpa Aboriginal Dance Group to the Changmu International Dance Festival, Korea’s sole international dance festival for indigenous and experimental dance. The AKF also sponsored a well-attended exhibition of Korean ceramics, Earth, spirit, fire: Korean masterpieces of the Choson dynasty, shown at both the Queensland Art Gallery and the Powerhouse Museum. The exhibition was an official event in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival.

The AKF explored new ways of promoting media links between the two countries. As a follow-up to the Australia–Korea Media Forum in 1999, co-sponsored by the AKF and the Korea Press Foundation, the AKF has introduced a program of sending Australian journalists on study visits to Korea. The first journalist on the program visited Korea in June 2001.

The AKF is updating the content and upgrading the technology associated with its multi-media study kit, Investigating Australia. Aimed at informing young Koreans about the everyday life of their counterparts in Australia, the kit was launched in 1999 and has been distributed to 3,000 secondary schools. One element of the kit has also been translated and incorporated in a Korean secondary school social studies textbook.

The department’s work with the Australia–Japan Foundation is reported under outcome 1, sub-output 1.1.2 and 1.2.1. The Foundation’s annual report is presented to Parliament before 31 October each year.

Australia–South Pacific 2006 program

Building on the highly successful sports component of the Australia–South Pacific (ASP) 2000 program, the department continued to oversee Australia’s sporting infrastructure assistance to regional states and territories through the ASP 2006 program. We worked closely with the Australian Sports Commission, which manages a substantial part of the program on behalf of the department. Posts in the region also played a key role in identifying appropriate sports development projects.

Australia–Asia Sports Linkages Program

Funding for the Australia–Asia Sports Linkages Program, a departmental initiative to provide sports development assistance in South and South-East Asia, concluded at the end of the financial year. The program, which operated in 11 countries, focused on developing sport at the community level; promoting sports opportunities for disabled athletes; and providing training assistance for potential Olympic and Paralympic competitors. It made a significant contribution in these areas, while also highlighting Australia’s expertise in many areas of sport. The program has led to a number of commercial opportunities for the Australian sports industry, including in Singapore and Vietnam.

Television service to the Asia-Pacific

At the direction of the Government, the department sought proposals for the establishment of an enhanced television service to the Asia-Pacific region to project accurate images and perceptions of Australia. The Government subsequently announced that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) would be funded to establish a regional television service, subject to the finalisation of an agreement with the ABC for the operation of the service.

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The Sydney 2000 Olympics provided a unique opportunity to inform and influence international public opinion about Australia on a massive scale. The department played a key role in capitalising on that opportunity by working closely with the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) and other agencies to coordinate support for visiting dignitaries and international media representatives. In particular, we assisted visiting media to project an accurate image of Australia, including its foreign and trade policies.

We advanced Australia’s foreign and trade policy interests through the production of targeted public affairs material, briefings for international media representatives and media presentations at the Sydney Media Centre in the lead-up to and during the Olympic Games. These activities resulted in increased understanding and awareness of these issues by international media and resulted in positive coverage including of Australia’s trade, tourism and economic potential.

We provided extensive assistance with the entry, handling and security of visiting dignitaries, access to ministers, the provision of federal hospitality, and foreign and trade policy issues management. In addition, we put in place arrangements to enable the diplomatic and consular corps to perform their functions appropriately during the Games.

Many overseas posts hosted opening and closing ceremony events to promote the Games and Australia. Overseas posts also helped with Australian cultural events around the world under the Olympic Arts Festival banner. In cooperation with Australian immigration, customs and quarantine agencies, overseas posts took part in a campaign to inform Olympic visitors about entry requirements to Australia and to brief local media representatives. We also co-hosted, with Austrade, Business Club Australia bilateral ‘networking’ sessions, which brought together government and business representatives from Australia and 14 key trading partners during the Olympics.

The department’s successful management of the Government’s involvement in the running of the Oceania leg of the Olympic torch relay also generated considerable interest and goodwill in the Pacific and contributed significantly to the positive publicity Australia received in the region in the lead-up to and during the Olympic Games.

Olympic Virtual Media Centre

A dedicated Internet site was developed to complement the services of the Sydney Media Centre and to help visiting media during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This site recorded almost 240,000 hits and approximately 9,000 visitor sessions from July to November 2000 when the site was closed. The site provided current news, features and background information on major Australian economic, scientific, social and sporting themes, and an email service for media to seek responses to specific questions.

Sydney Media Centre

To promote Australia effectively to the large number of foreign media representatives visiting Australia before and during the Olympics, the department became a lead partner in the establishment of the Sydney Media Centre, a state-of-the-art media service centre located in the Darling Harbour precinct.

The centre, which operated from June to October 2000, was a joint initiative between the Commonwealth and NSW governments, with additional private sector sponsorship. Providing a coordinated service in a convenient location for all media, the Centre covered over 3,000 square metres of floor space and included 96 workstations, a media conference room to seat 500 people, a 50-seat briefing room, help desks, phone and Internet access, commercial services, and photographic, broadcast and catering facilities.

In the lead-up to and during the Games, approximately 3,500 individual media representatives visited the centre, while a further 1,500 registered via the centre’s website. During September 2000 alone, more than 55,000 separate visitor entries to the centre were recorded. In cooperation with 25 federal agencies, the department coordinated a program of around 40 media conferences and presentations on a wide variety of subjects, including trade and investment, indigenous and multicultural affairs, the environment, science and technology, the arts and sport. Departmental officers at the centre handled more than 300 media inquiries in September and provided journalists with practical and timely information on sources and story ideas. We provided a range of public affairs material, including publications, stock television video and still images.

In a commissioned survey of 126 journalists, almost all respondents considered the centre to have been an important source of story ideas and information. More than half felt that the information and media briefings had changed or extended their stories in some way. The professionalism of staff and the facilities were highly rated. Media monitoring by overseas posts revealed almost universally positive coverage of Sydney and Australia over the Games period and an improved understanding of Australia in the international media.

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Freedom of Information and archival research and clearance

Freedom of Information

The department met our obligations under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 1982, processing 73 applications (an increase of 33 per cent on the previous year). While not all requests were met within the statutory deadlines, either because those few cases were extremely complicated or there was a need to retrieve documents from overseas, the department revised procedures to ensure applicants were kept informed of progress in handling their requests. Three complaints requiring departmental action were made to the Ombudsman, all of which were resolved. Two appeals against departmental decisions were made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal; these have not yet been heard.

Table 7. Requests processed under the Freedom of Information Act 1982




Requests for information
Access granted in full




Access granted in part




Access refused




Requests transferred or withdrawn








Requests subject to review or legal appeal
Subject to internal review (s.54)




In Administrative Appeals Tribunal (s.55)








* Only three referrals to the Ombudsman required action by the department.

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Privacy Act 1988

The department received no complaints in relation to the Privacy Act 1988.

Archival research and clearance

Departmental records more than 30 years old are available for public access under the Archives Act 1983. Highly classified departmental records are referred by the National Archives for expert assessment of sensitivities relating to intelligence, security, defence or international relations.

During the year under review, the department assessed 675 files for public or special access. Of these, 460 contained at least one exemption each on national security or international relations grounds. There were no appeals.

Table 8. Files assessed for international relations sensitivities before release to the public under the Archives Act 1983




Records received




Records completed




Number of folios




Open access




Released with exemptions




Subject to review




Subject to appeal




In September, following the publication of Australia and the Indonesian Incorporation of Portuguese Timor 1974–1976, 317 records relating to East Timor in the period 1974 to 1976 were released, wholly or partly, ahead of the 30-year rule.

We answered 458 requests for historical and administrative information from public and official researchers.

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Table 9. Requests for information processed




Requests for Information









Special access








Historical documents publications Click to view related information - opens in new window

The department completed a documents volume, Australia and the Indonesian Incorporation of Portuguese Timor 1974–1976, which Mr Downer launched at Parliament House in September 2000, attracting wide publicity and considerable media and academic interest. Some 1,200 copies of the Timor volume were distributed to overseas posts, libraries and academic institutions, as well as being sold commercially.

The department’s Centenary of Federation history, Facing North: A Century of Australian Engagement with Asia, has been split into two volumes. Volume 1, covering the period from 1901 to the 1970s, has been cleared by the Advisory Committee to the project and will be launched later in 2001. The draft of Volume 2 is in progress.

Library Click to view related information - opens in new window

The library made approximately 9,000 loans and fulfilled approximately 1,300 reference requests during the year. Enhanced services such as the provision of a monthly ‘Management Abstracts’ paper led to requests for access to 142 articles appearing in the abstracts.


The archives unit supervised the sentencing of more than of 1,000 metres of files Click to view related information - opens in new window in Canberra and more than 210 metres overseas.

The financial and staffing resources summary for outcome 3 is at Appendix 2.

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